Ruais wins straw poll at Manchester Business Alliance forum

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From left, mayoral candidates Will Stewart, Jay Ruais, Kevin Cavanaugh and Nick Gray of Manchester Business Alliance, which organized the forum. Photo/Jeff Hastings

MANCHESTER, N.H.  – With just under two weeks until Primary Election day, three of the four candidates for mayor convened at the Rex Theater for a forum hosted by the Manchester Business Alliance.

Moderated by Attorney John Cronin, candidates Kevin Cavanaugh, Will Stewart and Jay Ruais each took turns fielding questions for 30 minutes from members of an assembled audience with Cronin offering follow-up questions to help stimulate discussion as the other two candidates sat backstage in isolation awaiting their turn to take a set of questions.

Fourth candidate June Trisciani had a conflicting engagement and was unable to attend.

Cavanaugh drew the right to go first and focused primarily on his experience building relationships throughout his professional and political career, vowing to work with anyone and seek balanced solutions. On the issue of housing, Cavanaugh urged greater development of the city’s waterfront, more collaboration with developers and advocacy of fewer restrictions on zoning from the state level. He also said he felt that it was important for the city to seek more green investments such as solar farms, urge the state to assist municipalities more on government retirement funding and invest more in city employees. In particular, he urged the hiring of more police officers.

“Everyone should feel safe, wherever they go in the city,” he said.

Investment was also important for Cavanaugh regarding the city’s schools, noting prospective Manchester residents have a choice between Manchester’s aging educational infrastructure and nearby communities that are investing in schools, and a lack of investment in schools may sway those potential residents elsewhere.

Ruais was next, mentioning personal responsibility, results-based initiatives and the need for greater cooperation, saying that one can be an advocate without being adversarial adding that party affiliation was irrelevant when it comes to finding solutions to the city’s problems and “collaboration is king.”

“We do not need to agree on everything, but when you agree on some of the smaller things, it builds a modicum of trust and things snowball from there,” he said.

Ruais echoed the need for collaboration and listening in addressing the issues of homelessness and affordable housing, calling his homelessness plan a “trampoline not hammock” approach focused on results-based programs. Regarding the city’s public schools, he advocated not for more spending but more efficient spending, urging higher salaries for teachers and calling the need for teachers to buy their own teaching materials “unacceptable.”

“The question shouldn’t be how much more we should spend, but how we can best spend our money,” he said.

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Jay Ruais. Photo/Jeff Hastings

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Will Stewart. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

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Kevin Cavanaugh. Photo/jeffreyHastings

During the final segment of the night, Stewart stressed his managerial experience and focused on the need for great support from Concord, citing Manchester’s status as the lowest cost-per-pupil spending in the state.

“Manchester doesn’t have an education problem, it has a poverty problem,” he said.

Stewart agreed with Ruais and Cavanaugh regarding the need to reform the personal recognizance bail system, adding that he voted to fully fund the Manchester Police Department every year he has served on the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen. However, he again stressed the need that Manchester would need Concord’s assistance, asking the audience to contact Republicans in Concord given that they currently hold the governorship, both houses of the state legislature and Executive Council.

Stewart also echoed Cavanaugh’s call to invest more in the city, citing understaffed departments, and providing amenities to attract qualified workers that will attract new companies to the area.

One area where all three candidates agreed was the positive impact of Tax Increment Financing districts, a land use mechanism where infrastructural improvements in a certain area that create higher property values see increased property taxes pay off bonding for those infrastructural improvements over time.

In a straw poll after the conclusion of the event, audience members were asked to state what issues are important in this fall’s election, with “homelessness” tying with “crime and drugs” as the top issues. Attendees were also asked which candidate “won” the event, with Ruais receiving 84.8% or 39 of the 46 votes cast, followed by Stewart (5 votes, 10.9%) and Cavanaugh (2 votes, 4.3%)

“Good policies make for good politics. I think when you’re talking about issues that matter to people and providing solutions, I think things end up the way they turned out tonight,” said Ruais. “Tonight was a fantastic night, we had a great opportunity to share our vision and plans for the future of the city of Manchester with residents and business owners.”

The event was the first of its kind for the fledgling business organization, which sprung from discussions between Nick Gray of the Gray Property Group on Elm Street and Wrap City’s Martha Edgar on how Manchester-area business owners can take a more proactive non-partisan role toward improving the city.


About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.