Five for 5: Five candidates for mayor, five questions

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Five for 5


MANCHESTER, NH – Manchester’s mayoral primary election is Sept. 15 at which time those residents who take the time and make the effort to vote will narrow the field, from five to two.

Those two candidates with the most votes will appear on the general election ballot in November, and the top vote-getter will become our 56th mayor, taking office in January 2016 and serve the city for the next two years.

In collaboration with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, we asked each of the five candidates running —Patrick Arnold, Joyce Craig, Ted Gatsas, Glenn Ouellette and Jawad Alibaba Shaikh — to submit answers to the same five questions, on economic development, transportation, improving the downtown, public safety and education. Their answers are below, along with links to any campaign websites or Facebook pages they have.

Do your homework! And then, vote on Tuesday.

Click here for polling information.

[The candidates are listed below in alphabetical order.]


 

Patrick Arnold making the rounds at a campaign house party.
Patrick Arnold making the rounds at a campaign house party.

Patrick Arnold

www.arnoldformayor.com

1. As mayor, what would be your single biggest economic development priority for the next two years? It could be a specific project or a new program to help businesses expand or attract new businesses to the city.

No single project will magically transform Manchester into a regional economic hub. We must replace the culture of complacency at City Hall with a dynamic and diverse effort to attract 21st century businesses. Manchester must be promoted as a location for emerging industries, such as biotechnology and other advanced manufacturing. We haven’t even skimmed the surface of the potential for partnerships involving our local colleges and businesses.

In addition, Manchester must encourage the growth of diversified retail in the downtown area and work with other levels of government transportation options. As mayor, I’ll look forward to actively facilitating such partnerships and relentlessly pursuing such opportunities until Manchester is recognized as the best place in New Hampshire to open a business.

2. What is your plan to ensure Manchester has a safe, modern transportation system? Does your plan include support for extending passenger rail to Manchester and keeping new technology, like ridesharing services, in the city?

As with many issues in our city, Manchester’s bus and transportation systems must be modernized to reflect changing demographic trends and neighborhood needs. I support expanded passenger rail to Manchester; our city should be leading this effort. We need a 21st century leader in the corner office to help develop a modern regulatory scheme that encourages ridesharing services such as Uber, while maintaining proper consumer protections.

3. Public safety and reducing crime is a key concern for many residents. What new policies or plans would you implement as mayor to improve public safety?

Crime in Manchester is out of control. Here’s my plan: Police should be walking a beat in every single neighborhood. We need to focus on accountability to achieve results. As mayor, I’d propose management reforms and more effective use of cutting-edge technology. Cities around the country are using CompStat or similar programs to effectively fight crime. If something works, we’ll do more of it. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. I’ll have daily meetings with law enforcement if necessary until we get drugs out of our neighborhoods and make our streets safe again.

4. Downtown Manchester has built a strong base of restaurants, entertainment venues, housing units, and shopping options. As mayor, what policies or actions would you pursue to support / attract more visitors and residents to downtown Manchester?

Though our downtown has plenty of restaurants and bars, we’re lacking diversified retail. One of the ways to incentivize diversified retail is to make it easier to open or expand a business in Manchester. As mayor, I would streamline and simplify the permitting process, and treat potential business owners as partners not adversaries. I would propose consumer-friendly policies to promote downtown shopping. Concord, for example, offers free downtown parking around the holidays. I’d also encourage true partnerships with community and cultural organizations to host frequent downtown events. Imagine the Porchfests hosted in Somerville, MA, or West Haven, CT, where artists, musicians and neighborhoods build a sense of community. We could have that in Manchester.

5.  As mayor, what would be your top priority over the next two years to support Manchester’s K-12 education system?

My top priority in education is closing the opportunity gap between affluent and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Opportunities and services available to students in some areas of the city are not available to students everywhere in our city. This has to change. As mayor, I would promote more parental involvement, maximize communication and coordination with community partners, and expand curriculum options for high-risk youth. I refuse to accept adequacy as the standard for Manchester schools. Excellence should be our goal, and we should not settle until Manchester schools are counted among the best in the region.


On the campaign trail during a tour of Velcro.
On the campaign trail during a tour of Velcro.

Joyce Craig

www.joycecraig.org

1. As Mayor, what would be your single biggest economic development priority for the next two years? It could be a specific project or a new program to help businesses expand or attract new businesses to the City.

For six years, Mayor Gatsas has taken a passive approach to economic development in Manchester. As mayor, I will work with all stakeholders to promote and market all that Manchester has to offer. Our employers tell me that they have jobs but cannot find enough qualified people to fill them. Manchester has 10 colleges and universities, yet we are failing to keep our graduates here because they choose to take jobs in Portsmouth, Boston and other communities. As mayor, I will work with our employers and higher education institutions to match students and expand intern and employment opportunities for our young people in Manchester. In addition to retaining recent graduates, we need to make sure that our community provides a public education system that encourages young parents to live in and work in Manchester. As mayor, I will actively market our city and create jobs by bringing more innovative companies to Manchester and rebuilding a Queen City that attracts families and businesses.

2. What is your plan to ensure Manchester has a safe, modern transportation system? Does your plan include support for extending passenger rail to Manchester and keeping new technology, like ridesharing services, in the city?

Manchester has great potential but we are still using 20th century ordinances in a 21st century transportation environment.  Last year, the innovative ride-sharing company Uber arrived in Manchester and Mayor Gatsas gave the ultimatum of conforming to outdated rules and regulations or leave town. Understanding the potential benefits of making Manchester an attractive place for Uber and other innovative businesses, I proposed a temporary operating agreement to keep Uber in the city while addressing some safety concerns.  The Mayor rejected my proposal, preferring to force Uber to follow the traditional taxi cab ordinance.  We need a leader who will send a message that Manchester is open to the new and innovative businesses of tomorrow. By passing the agreement I proposed, we would have demonstrated that Manchester is willing to adapt new models that can bring jobs and growth to the city. In addition to Uber, Mayor Gatsas continues to be a roadblock to bringing expanded passenger rail to Manchester. Connecting Manchester to Boston by passenger rail Boston will create thousands of jobs, allow our airport to offer international flights, and allow our high-tech companies to find and keep the talented workforce they need to grow. As Mayor, I will always work to ensure we are meeting the transportation needs of our city and are open to new and innovative ideas to move our city forward.

3.  Downtown Manchester has built a strong base of restaurants, entertainment venues, housing units, and shopping options. As Mayor, what policies or actions would you pursue to support attract more visitors and residents to Downtown Manchester?

Manchester’s downtown has come a long way, largely thanks to the development of the Verizon Arena, which Mayor Gatsas opposed as an Alderman. Today, we have many successful restaurants, bars and entertainment options, yet I hear often that residents and visitors worry about their safety when visiting our downtown. After listening to the concerns of families worried about panhandling, I wrote and worked to pass an ordinance to curb pan handling in Manchester. With this new ordinance in place, our police officers now have a tool to keep aggressive panhandlers from harassing downtown visitors.

We also need to make downtown more walkable and bikeable as we have many residents that live and work there.  As an avid runner and a member of Bike Manchester, I would actively explore opportunities to make downtown more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, and as an Alderman recently advocated to complete the Rails to Trails network. With all we have to offer, Manchester really is New Hampshire’s downtown and we need to make sure that people from all over feel safe and welcome in our city.

4. Public safety and reducing crime is a key concern for many residents. What new policies or plans would you implement as Mayor to improve public safety?

As a mother and Alderman, I am concerned about the serious crime problem in Manchester and its impact on our families, children, and residents.  I commend our public safety officials for all they do, but we need to ensure they are getting the resources and support they need from the Mayor. In 2014, I led efforts to increase the number of police officers from to a compliment of 237 officers patrolling our streets and neighborhoods.  Under the Mayor’s budget proposal, our police force would have been reduced to 201 officers, which is unacceptable.

Crimes driven by drug addition continue to cause great concern. In the first five days of this month, Manchester first responders were called to 17 opiate overdoses, including one fatality. Although we cannot arrest our way out of this problem, we must continue to provide the police department with the tools necessary to get things under control.  I support new initiatives such as hot spot policing and crime prevention efforts to help track, rapidly respond, and ultimately prevent crimes from happening. After six years under Mayor Gatsas, crime and drug abuse have continued to hold our City back and it is clear that we need change in the Mayor’s office to move forward.

5. As Mayor, what would be your top priority over the next two years to support Manchester’s K-12 education system?

As a proud graduate of Memorial High School and the mother of three children who attend Manchester public schools, I understand and appreciate the importance of our educational system to our community.  A great education system is vital to Manchester in so many ways and better schools will lead to safer streets and greater economic development.

As Mayor, I will work to improve our schools by rebuilding our relationships with the sending towns of Candia and Hooksett to bring back millions of dollars in lost revenue, collaborate with our ten colleges and universities to develop partnerships that benefit all Manchester students, and actively communicate with our educators to make sure they are getting the resources and support they need from City Hall.  After six years as Mayor, it is clear that Ted Gatsas has failed our schools. Manchester needs a leader who respects our parents, students, educators and taxpayers. As a mother, Alderman, and former School Board member, I will work to get our children the resources they need to graduate and succeed.


 

Mayor Ted Gatsas during the "Best School in the State" celebration.
Mayor Ted Gatsas during the \”Best School in the State\” celebration.

Ted Gatsas

www.tedgatsas.com

1. As Mayor, what would be your single biggest economic development priority for the next two years? It could be a specific project or a new program to help businesses expand or attract new businesses to the City.

When it comes to economic development it begins by supporting our current positive economic development climate and expanding.  I have a plan to do just that:

  1. Encourage current city business to grow and expand.  Recently I reinvigorated and funded the small business development fund which is a new opportunity for investment and growing our tax base;
  1. Begin a hometown loyalty program that provides a listing of local alternatives to online shopping.  Every dollar we put into our local brick and mortar businesses helps fuel our local economy, goes back to supporting our community, supporting our schools and growing our tax base.
  1. The city will also begin a creative conversion campaign to promote economic development.  This would be done by taking visibly vacant commercial properties and bringing new temporary-to-permanent use to these properties.  For example, a weekend artists market or a year-round farmers market.  This creative conversion would have immediate benefits: 1) bring visibility to available, vacant properties throughout the city; 2) promote local retailers, entrepreneurs and artisans; 3) bring new types of development to all areas of the city and; 4) grow our tax base.

2. What is your plan to ensure Manchester has a safe, modern transportation system? Does your plan include support for extending passenger rail to Manchester and keeping new technology, like ridesharing services, in the city?

My transportation plan begins with continuing to sustain and improve what we have and continue to work to grow and expand our options. They are outlined below:

  • Roads: Transportation begins with our roads. I have successfully brought forward and provided funding for the Annual Road Replacement Fund. This is a five year $18 million plan for road repair.  In this construction season the city will see over 20 miles of road improvements throughout the Queen City.
  • Bike Lanes: Within this five-year plan the Department of Public Works is mapping bike lanes into their road reconstruction projects so multi-modal transportation is a reality on our city streets.                                                                                                                                               Manchester Regional Airport: A major part of what attracts business and families to the city is our airport.  The Manchester regional airport provides ease and convenience of travel and a world-class facility. We must continue to grow and support the airport business.
  • Passenger Rail: I have always supported passenger rail and believe that when it is brought to New Hampshire it be extended to Manchester.  However there are questions that need answers.  They are: What is the cost and how is it going to paid for? And what that means to the taxpayers of Manchester must be fully vetted and understood.
  • Ridesharing: I support ridesharing and welcome it as a transportation option within the Queen City. We continue to work with Uber to craft a policy where our public safety concerns are addressed and their services will continue.

3. Downtown Manchester has built a strong base of restaurants, entertainment venues, housing units, and shopping options. As Mayor, what policies or actions would you pursue to support/attract more visitors and residents to Downtown Manchester?

I am extremely pleased with the growth and vibrancy we have seen downtown and I am excited by it.  As Mayor I have increased the cities investment in INTOWN Manchester summer programming because of the activity it brings to Elm Street, to our city parks and downtown business. We must continue to grow and expand this relationship with INTOWN.

We also need to bring in additional high-end living units to the downtown.  Elm Grove properties is adding micro units in the Hanover Street corridor and Bill Binnie is renovating the former Citizens Bank property to include high-end rental units.  The more people living downtown the more vibrant our downtown will be and we will continue to add more dining, shopping and lifestyle options.

I am also hopeful that through a unique public/private partnership we will see a new arts and culture facility become a reality downtown on Amherst Street.

4. Public safety and reducing crime is a key concern for many residents. What new policies or plans would you implement as Mayor to improve public safety?

The current complement of city police officers is 237 and is the largest approved complement of police personnel. In the past 18 months the Manchester Police Department has implemented new data-driven policing methods like “hot-spot” and predictive policing that have proved effective.  Recently the department received national recognition for their use of technology in fighting and deterring crime in the city. Our community policing efforts are stronger than they have ever been; there are more officers in our neighborhoods, police on bicycles and walking the downtown beat everyday. As a combined result of all these efforts the MPD has successfully strengthened enforcement and deterred crime in the city.

In the coming months we will be putting additional officers on our street and there will be a permanent, increased presence of police in the city and our efforts will be further strengthened. When it comes to public safety we must also address the heroin epidemic that we are faced with across the country and our city.  This epidemic is the root of many crimes.  To do this we must:

1. Establish a drug court in Manchester and I have led the efforts for the city.  Drug court is essential to fighting the heroin epidemic because it puts those in the recovery process into a strict 18 month program that includes probation, counseling and drug testing.

2. Run in tandem a program that provides jobs and transitional housing to those working towards change and recovery so they can transform their lives by changing their routine and environment.

3. We need, and are actively working, to bring more treatment and rehabilitation facilities to the city. These options need to be readily available, easily accessible and affordable.

4. We will engage a community wide support network of 100+ volunteers to partner with providers to aid in the recovery coaching process and become a support network for those working towards change and recovery.

It will take the strength of the entire community to end the epidemic but we can, and we will make it happen.

5. As Mayor, what would be your top priority over the next two years to support Manchester’s K-12 education system?

Students are always my No. 1 priority, and I am proud that we have increased educational opportunities here in Manchester.  In the next two years our priority has to be how we put more teachers in our classrooms at all levels to reduce class sizes.

Given what we know about the current budget forecast following the passage of the MEA contract this is going to be very difficult.  I did not support the passage of this contract because of the deficits it creates. 90% of the School District budget is salary and benefits. Therefore unless there’s a tax cap override layoffs will occur and class sizes will grow to meet the financial obligations of the contract.

Between now and the start of the next fiscal year there’s 9 months. We must immediately begin to plan and find savings in the current budget that we can carry forward to avoid layoffs and have the ability to fill vacancies.

We can implement:

  1. Redistricting: Since first becoming Mayor we’ve talked about redistricting and it’s always a political football amongst the board membership. They support the idea but get cold feet when it comes time to move forward. There is no other option because it will save on busing costs and the superintendent can lower class sizes at no additional cost.
  2.  End board member benefits: Currently elected officials receive very generous health benefits provided by the taxpayers. The offering of these benefits is not a guarantee within the city charter and needs to end. The savings generated will be significant and can be used to meet our financial obligations.

We can not wait for the budget process to find answers, we must begin now.


 

Campaign launch at City Hall.
Campaign launch at City Hall.

Glenn Ouellette

Ouelletteformayor.com

1. As Mayor, what would be your single biggest economic development priority for the next two years? It could be a specific project or a new program to help businesses expand or attract new businesses to the City.

I will relax some planning and zoning codes to attract new development, but still in keeping our city safe and the old buildings intertwined with the new growth of our progressive city in order to create work from high tech to manufacturing jobs for all our citizens.

I will  work with Manchester-Boston-Regional Airport to attract four new airlines to fill the present four airline gates that sit empty today, and propose changing the airport’s name to Manchester NH International Airport as we work toward bring back the luster we once had with over 4 million flyers, which has been reduced to today’s 1.5 million.

2. What is your plan to ensure Manchester has a safe, modern transportation system? Does your plan include support for extending passenger rail to Manchester and keeping new technology, like ride sharing services, in the city?

My plan includes support for extending passenger rail to the Downtown and connecting to the Manchester Airport, in keeping with new developing technology, like ride sharing services that pay their fair share of licensing, as taxis do, or change some of the city taxi regulations to level the playing field.

I would also propose adding a new rail and bus private/public transportation station  between the Hilton Garden Inn and WMUR TV9/Market Basket, connecting to South Commercial & South Bedford Streets. The Rails would also connect from the airport to the Downtown station to be built without city property taxes, but rather by the public/private state & federal government.

3. Downtown Manchester has built a strong base of restaurants, entertainment venues, housing units, and shopping options. As Mayor, what policies or actions would you pursue to support/attract more visitors and  residents to Downtown Manchester?

I will reduce Downtown and millyard parking meters or kiosks from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and get rid of Saturday paid parking in those same areas near businesses to insure that our Downtown/Millyard Business District gets a fair shake. The little lost in revenues will be gained by the meals and rooms tax making up that difference.

4. Public safety and reducing crime is a key concern for many residents. What new policies or plans would you implement as Mayor to improve public safety?

I would call for a revival of a program like the DARE program for all 5th and 6th graders to be paid for with a federal grant. I would use $100,000 of current city savings to pay for the drug court to get it started now, and work toward state funding going forward. I would also call for a sliding-scale rehab and after care program. I would also create a six-week youth summer jobs program (age 16-22) for troubled youth funded by a 50-50 public/private partnership. I will maintain a 232 complement of police officers year-round, anticipating retirements, etc, so there are no gaps. I would energize the city’s network of Neighborhood Crime Watch, one for each of the city’s 32 neighborhoods, and provide the tools and funding needed to MPD to support them.

I will reopen all city parks, including the three main downtown parks currently closed or restricted from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and put a police presence on foot patrols, if needed, to keep those parks safe for all of our school children and citizens who choose to use them.

5. As Mayor, what would be your top priority over the next two years to support Manchester’s K-12 education system?     

It is against federal law for the U.S. government to either create, fund or mandate a national curriculum.  Local school boards should therefore say no to Common Core.

In taking No Child Left Behind seriously, the first through fourth grades are where students begin to master elementary reading, basic math and writing skills. If a student has not mastered basic reading, math and writing by the end of the third grade, then extra help for one-on-one reading and math tutored lessons will be needed to catch up in the fourth grade, before heading on to the fifth grade, a very important year for all students to catch up in all levels, before moving on into the middle schools. That is what I call “No Child Left Behind.” This is a must, if we are to continue reducing the drop-out rate at the high school level.


 

Alibaba announces his intention to run for mayor.
Alibaba announces his intention to run for mayor.

Jawad Alibaba Shaikh

www.alibabaformayor.com

1.  As Mayor, what would be your single biggest economic development priority for the next two years? It could be a specific project or a new program to help businesses expand or attract new businesses to the city.

My vision for the city’s future commerce includes a “Sister City” relationship with a vibrant high-tech city Silicon Valley.  A Sister City is a legal and social agreement between the two cities to promote cultural and commercial ties. We need to think outside the box and be creative in our vision and be SMART enough to see future trends.  We have a good start on Manchester’s future as presented by Fast Company “Next Top 10 Cities for Tech Jobs,” right up there with Portland, OR, and Austin, TX; let’s build on that. This will bring high-tech as well as related manufacturing jobs into the city. We are a geographically attractive city. This will also help small businesses to flourish in the city, by bringing more people into the city and broadening our tax base.

2. What is your plan to ensure Manchester has a safe, modern transportation system? Does your plan include support for extending passenger rail to Manchester and keeping new technology, like ridesharing services in the city?

Our transportation plan in the city needs to make every effort to accommodate the real needs of people, including private ridesharing services in the city and easy bus transportation.  I will look into the needs of all citizens, not forgetting our children, elderly and the disabled. Keep in mind, the prosperity of a city does not depend on private car traffic, but on accessibility in general. My plan will connect Manchester and the Manchester Airport with other cities.

I will promote Manchester as a destination location and a HUB for National and International airlines. It is important to market the small businesses, restaurants, downtown and the many attractions of Manchester. I will work to establish a railway to make the airport and travel by train a viable option for inhabitants of the state and visitors coming from other locations.

3. Downtown Manchester has built a strong base of restaurants, entertainment venues, housing units, and shopping options. As Mayor, what policies or actions would you pursue to support and attract more visitors and residents to Downtown Manchester?

We need to capitalize on the strong downtown base that has been established within our city. To expand upon this, I will bring more outlet stores, specialty shops, and boutiques as an anchor to support the small businesses in downtown. I will work to utilize the Verizon Center, year round, for trade shows and conventions. I will look to fill the vacant high-rise buildings with tech employers and trending marketplace companies to create an additional employee base to further support the downtown economy. With these enhancements, my vision for downtown Manchester is to be an attractive and thriving location all year round.

4. Public safety and reducing crime is a key concern for many residents. What new policies or plans would you implement as Mayor to improve public safety?

I will find ways to operate more affordably, such as using technology in more efficient ways, which also means being smarter. One way to increase public safety is to expand manpower, but that doesn’t always make fiscal sense. I propose, using technology as a “force multiplier.” As mayor, I will use a SMART policing approach which includes SMART policing, crime fighting apps, social media and wearable cameras to bring accountability to our safety force. This technology has been tried and tested by several cities with proven results.

To make our city work well we need to be more intelligent. Constant feedback and review of the effectiveness of police programs is essential. To ensure our safety programs evolve with the needs of our city, we have to be smarter about how we use existing capacity and resources. I propose taking action against crime at the smaller offense level as it sends a clear message that illegal behavior will not be tolerated, reducing the incidence of every level of crime.

As mayor, I will reduce the drug addiction burden off of the police department and ensure that there is a treatment plan to rehabilitate those addicted and re-integrate reformed addicts into mainstream society.  Keeping safety as a top priority for our city also requires the creation of strategic partnerships between the police, public service agencies, and community groups. Such partnerships are essential to prevent crime.  I will work to create a culture of accountability which will be instituted within the structure and at every level, from the whole city to a single street, the law enforcement personnel entrusted with preventing crime must take responsibility for failure, and be recognized for their success.

5. As Mayor, what would be your top priority over the next two years to support Manchester’s K-12 education system?

I believe children are the future. We need to invest in our future. We need to provide each child with a vision for their future and a path to get there. Children born into poverty have a 6,000-hour education gap compared to their middle class peers by the time they reach the sixth grade. As mayor, I will work to eliminate this gap and also provide advanced programs for our excelling students. My plan for the future is to offer our children a bold education – to compete in the global market place.

Children learn best when there is a partnership between the community, schools, families and students where all partners are working together. We need to provide 21st century technology so our students and teachers have the appropriate tools to do their work. Manchester is a city of diversity and we need to work to eliminate the opportunity gap and provide every student with programs around individual achievement. This creates a culture of EXCELLENCE. I will reward our teachers and students for their achievements and to keep them motivated. I will find them the private sector scholarships to continue their education. I will make Manchester a ‘Sister City’ with Silicon Valley to open new horizons for Manchester students.   I will work to create internship and career path opportunities between the two cities. Our public schools in Manchester are my top priority.


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About Carol Robidoux 5552 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.
  • tjg1984

    “I would call for a revival of a program like the DARE program for all 5th and 6th graders to be paid for with a federal grant.” – Ouellette

    Ew. Federal dependency and failed drug war propaganda programs in one sentence? No thank you.