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A4 PORTSMOUTH HERALD WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2013

WWW.SEACOASTONLINE.COM

PORTSMOUTH CITY COUNCIL RACE
PORTSMOUTH CITY COUNCIL RACE

Candidates at a glance

The 23 residents running for the Portsmouth City Council answered a series of questions provided by the Portsmouth Herald for profile stories. As an additional help to readers, their answers (some reduced to fit this space) will be detailed in this format this week. For their complete answers, visit www.seacoastonline.com.

What is your solution to the current parking shortage in downtown?

your solution to the current parking shortage in downtown? Stefany Shaheen Address: 77 South St. Age:

Stefany Shaheen

Address: 77 South St. Age: 39

Given the critical need for additional parking spaces downtown, we must consider every potential municipal and private location. We should also push more aggressively to obtain the federal McIntyre building and ensure park- ing is an integral part of any redevelopment plan for the building. Finally, we should promote existing satellite parking locations and identify other satellite options with adequate shuttle service.

other satellite options with adequate shuttle service. Bob Shouse Address: 555 Dennett St. Age: 65 I

Bob Shouse

Address: 555 Dennett St. Age: 65

I feel the city needs to build a parking garage in

the downtown, consider satellite parking and a trolley system to support satellite parking, and

a city-run valet parking system. The downtown

parking problem is only going to get worse, to the detriment of downtown businesses, employees and visitors, and a solution should be a top priority.

and visitors, and a solution should be a top priority. Ken Smith Address: 298 Myrtle Ave.

Ken Smith

Address: 298 Myrtle Ave. Age: 48

Continue to create and expand parking areas around the perimeter of the downtown so as to continue the balance of paid and free parking

to lessen the impact of parking in the neighbor- hoods while preventing tra c congestion on our already tra c-burdened downtown streets.

on our already tra c-burdened downtown streets. Eric Spear Address: 49 Mount Vernon St. Age: 44

Eric Spear

Address: 49 Mount Vernon St. Age: 44

We must build a new and attractive parking

facility on the Worth lot. Too many of our busi- nesses on the upper floors of our downtown

o ces are su ering. Their employees can’t

get to work, and their clients can’t meet them

for appointments. Our own residents who live outside of walking distance should be able to enjoy their downtown, and they need park- ing. Finally, more parking should never cost money, but instead reduce our tax burden. If the Worth lot proves impossible, then I will aggressively look elsewhere downtown.

Do you support the concepts of form-based zoning as a way to encourage respon- sible development?

This approach has the potential to prevent the construction of buildings inappropriate in size, scale and appearance for the area. It will be important for the community to carefully evaluate and understand the implications of this approach over the current zoning ordinances. Conceptually, I support formed-based zoning as it has the potential to address issues related to the character of the buildings in town, including height, volume, scale, massing and design.

Yes, I feel form-based zoning is the key to solving the problem of building height, build- ing mass, open space, compatibility with Portsmouth architecture and associated park- ing.

Yes. Having a one-size-fits-all zoning for our downtown is no longer sustainable. We need to encourage developers to consider size and mass while allowing properties to be develop- ment to the scale of surrounding buildings. The concept of form-based zoning gives the city the tools that are needed to allow development to take place without losing the integrity of our historical past.

Soon after I was elected mayor, I called the council to a special meeting to discuss ways to protect the historic character of our downtown. The outcome was a concept called form-based zoning. Since then, the sta , consultants, the Planning Board and the com- munity have put together a draft document to implement form-based codes. This new way of looking at our zoning laws will provide much more guidance to developers and to our land- use boards in terms of what the community expects and demands when it comes to archi- tecture in our downtown.

Do you feel the city has enough public transportation?

Portsmouth does not have enough public transportation and the transportation we do have is inadequately publicized. To address

these limitations, I would suggest several steps:

1. Expand trolley and shuttle service as a way to connect neighborhoods to the downtown.

2. Publicize current bus and trolley routes. 3.

Continue implementation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. 4. Add bike racks. 5. Work with bus service providers to add routes where appropriate.

While the city has COAST public transportation, this service could be expanded to service more of the city and more frequently. In addition, the city should introduce a new trolley system to

support satellite parking in lieu of downtown parking.

Over the past few years, the city has expanded its public transportation, i.e. COAST and trol- ley services. What is needed is better signage and education of schedules and routes. We need to encourage ride/share programs and expand our senior transportation, which should be a priority for the next council. Portsmouth prides itself on being a sustainable city, so we should continue our work on transportation and lessening the vehicles on our roads. Adding shuttle service from outlying parking lots to the downtown should also be a priority.

No, I think we need more bus routes and more frequent trips on each route. Unfortunately, the state provides no funding, and federal funding is diminishing. Transportation (like housing, to which it is closely related) is a

regional issue, and it deserves a regional solu- tion. I know Portsmouth is willing to contribute more to this e ort, but we need more coop- eration at all levels of government to make

it a success. Within the city, we continue to

expand our senior transportation e orts, and I want to build on that.

Give us your philosophy on the budget and what your priorities are when it comes to funding education and public safety.

Ensuring public safety and strong schools are two essential responsibilities of city govern- ment. As a parent of four children attending Portsmouth public schools, I know how impor- tant it is for our schools to continue building on success. Given the public safety demands placed on the city by the approximately 40,000 visitors who travel here each day, exploring ways to o set expenses related to public safety will be critical. Residents cannot a ord for taxes to increase at a rate faster than inflation.

My philosophy on the budget is that it needs to

be adequate to fund the city’s needs in order to provide a level of services that the citizens deserve. Funding for education cannot be diminished, as the education of our youngsters

is of critical importance. Likewise, the funding

of both the police and fire departments needs to be su cient to ensure public safety, with a close look at overtime.

My philosophy is to keep a budget at or below consumer price index. All of our current union contracts are tied to CPI at a 10-year rolling average. I believe municipal government is responsible for public safety, education and

infrastructure. These should always be of the highest priority for funding. Beyond these items are quality-of-life issues. The city needs to be able to maintain a budget that funds all of these items while not taxing citizens out of our city. Over the past few budget cycles, I have pro- posed and achieved cuts to the budget that have helped maintain a more sustainable tax rate.

For the past five years, we’ve had taxes go up less than 1 percent per year. Meanwhile, public services like education are the best in the state. This is an amazing achievement, and something I’m most proud of with respect to my record on the City Council and as mayor.

The city now has a AAA S&P bond rating, the only such S&P rating in the state. My intention

is to continue the policies that have brought

us this success: low taxes, strong public ser- vices and economic growth.

Do you support extend- ing last call for bars in Portsmouth until 2 a.m.?

The limited economic benefit relative to seri- ous safety concerns compels me to keep last call at 1 a.m. Trouble often happens after bars close. Extending last call would require the Police Department to change shift schedules to prepare for potential arrests and bookings after bars close. Portsmouth is a destination for many and will continue to be even if last call is at 1 a.m.

No, I do not support a 2 a.m. last call. I believe extending the hours to 2 a.m. begs for more drunken and rowdy behavior, which is unwise.

No. A majority of our bars and lounges close well before the current 1 a.m. closing time. A majority of the bars that remain open have dem- onstrated responsibility of not overserving their patrons. Currently at 1 a.m. there are still activi- ties in the downtown associated with getting a bite to eat until 2 a.m. Extending bars to 2 a.m. would extend the latter activities beyond 3 a.m., which would also impact extended police, etc.

No. We must remember the bars in Portsmouth are also co-located with resi- dents. I think at some point people need to get some sleep, and so I think that we should keep the last call as it stands.

Where do you think the city should build a senior center and why?

We must create more opportunities for our seniors. These same seniors also share their concerns about the risk of having to leave Portsmouth if taxes and living expenses continue to rise. The Blue Ribbon Senior Committee is considering all viable locations for a senior center, and it is important for this work to continue. The Doble U.S. Army Reserve Center is one potential location because it may be repurposed in a high- quality, cost-e ective way and done so quickly.

I feel the senior citizen center should definitely

be built at the Doble Army Reserve Center because of its availability, spaciousness, cen- tral location and single-story architecture with room for parking, handicapped services and expansion.

Paul A. Doble Reserve Center because it has many appealing features such as parking, easy access, commercial-grade kitchen and classrooms, to name a few, and would provide for an outstanding senior center with room for multiple concurrent activities to take place.

I created a new committee to look into senior

services, and its members recently toured the

former Doble Center. I look forward to hearing their feedback as they continue their process.

I will simply say for now I think we can move

ahead with some speed to get something in place. Meanwhile, we can also think long-term about a community center that could meet a lot of needs for residents of all ages.

What is your overall position on overtime wages?

Emergency readiness requires careful manage- ment of sta ng levels. Finding the balance between paying overtime wages and hiring new people is a delicate one. Often, the cost of overtime is less than the cost of training and making a new hire, but that calculation must be made in context of keeping the public safe.

Overtime wages should be avoided at all costs unless needed to cover operational necessities of both the police and fire departments, as well as Department of Public Works for snow removal.

While the city budgets will always include over- time, I believe the City Council has done a good

job of tightening that line item, not only in the city budget but in the union contracts. I believe we need to look closely at the balance of over- time versus hiring a new employee. Currently, it

is more cost-e ective to have overtime in some

departments than to hire new personnel. This is

a balance that I will continue to oversee.

On the surface, it appears overtime wages are

a bad deal for the taxpayer. However, when

employees are required outside of normal hours due to circumstances like a blown water main, snow or fire, they should be fairly compensated. Overtime used to fill shifts still

might be less costly than hiring new person- nel with all of their attached benefits. We and

the departments analyze di erent sta ng scenarios and choose the path that brings the most value to the taxpayer.

With many union contracts expected to expire in 2014, what do you hope the city achieves through the collec- tive bargaining process?

I do think it’s possible to achieve a shared sense of value through the upcoming collec- tive bargaining process. Those who dedicate their lives to serving the public — teachers, sanitation workers, police and firefighters — should be fairly compensated. With resources stretched, the city must budget carefully. By working together, I am confident that we can provide readiness in the face of emergency, excellence in the classroom and clean streets.

Residents are well served by our dedicated city workers and they are essential to the proper running of the city. The city should negotiate that all 15 unions change their health insurance from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to Cigna, as several unions have already voluntarily done, for a huge cost reduction to the city.

We need to finalize our two outstanding union contracts. We then we have to work with our current contracts. I have proposed a health insurance committee with a representative from each of the bargaining units, city sta and councilors. This committee would review current health insurance coverage and costs as well as review alternate plans, payment meth- ods and funding sources.

Our first objective is to deliver compensa-

tion that allows us to hire and retain the best possible work force. The second and equally important objective is to contain cost escala- tions (like health insurance) that force us to make unacceptable choices between fewer services or excessive taxes. On this point,

I will continue to be an aggressive taxpayer representative.

In what ways can the city bolster public participation and input?

Organizations such as Portsmouth Listens along with the public comment period during council meetings provide invaluable opportuni- ties for participation and input. However, I fear some voices are left out of the debate. The city has a responsibility to ensure those who want to participate have the chance. If elected, I will encourage the council to hold meetings in other public locations throughout the city and listening sessions to invite public comments on issues without the constraints of a regular meeting.

The city can bolster public participation and input by increasing the recording and broad- casting of all board and committee meetings and better advertising public hearings to encourage the public to attend and speak.

We need to continue to have more listening sessions. A give-and-take between the citizen and council should be allowed and not have

the council just listen. It can be frustrating as

a councilor that when a citizen speaks to us

we are not allowed at that moment to respond; instead, the public speaker has to wait until the end of the meeting to hear a response from councilors. Much of the time, misinformation is maintained because of lack of communication. Citizens have questions and they deserve the answers when the question is asked and not held up due to parliamentary procedures.

Over the next few years, I think we will see a revolution in the use of technology as a means to distribute information about road construc- tion projects, health inspections and building

permits. Further, city sta and elected o - cials will continue to establish relationships through traditional and nontraditional means like Portsmouth Listens, Facebook, e-mail and Twitter.

Identify an issue not mentioned above that you feel should be a priority in the coming years.

In 10 years, Portsmouth will celebrate its 400th birthday. Decisions we make and the work we do together will help shape Portsmouth’s future. More than any one of the choices indi- vidually, how we make these decisions will say more about what we want our future to look like and who we are as a community.

I believe an issue that should be mentioned is

the development of the Northern Tier and the expansion of the port of Portsmouth to encour- age more trade and more tourism be brought to the city. Also, the enhancement of the water and sewer plants, due to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandates, will be a big issue and will have a great e ect on water and sewer bills for the next several years.

First: The renovation of all of the elementary schools. Second: The issue of senior transpor- tation. Third: Succession process of our city manager. Fourth: the celebration of our city’s 400th anniversary.

Some of us are concerned about the rapid growth downtown. In order to manage that responsibly, I have voted for reducing the

maximum height of our buildings, once in April and again in September. I have appointed

a preservationist to the Historic District Commission. I have voted to expand the

Historic District twice. Finally, I have pushed to give the HDC tools and sta to enable them to more e ectively do their job. While these

e orts may take time to bear fruit, the seeds are planted for reasonable economic develop- ment that will protect everything that makes Portsmouth a city we love.