Grant Bosse: Manchester picks from great crop of candidatesBy GRANT BOSSE
October 23. 2017 9:22PM
Do I feel like a Manchester resident today? Will I on Nov. 7?
I haven’t lived, or voted, in Manchester for several years, but that shouldn’t matter. New Hampshire Democrats have been screaming all year that the state’s new residency requirements are disenfranchising voters. If I wake up on Election Day, and feel in my heart of hearts like a Manchester voter again, they think I should be able to show up and cast a ballot.
This year’s crop of candidates has me wishing I were still living in the Queen City.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with about half of the candidates running for contested seats on the school board and board of aldermen.
Not all of the candidates accepted our invitation to discuss their races with the New Hampshire Union Leader, and I’m not going to hold it against them. A handful aren’t campaigning all that actively. Some may have had my email caught in their spam filter, and never saw it. I suspect some simply saw the interview as a waste of time, given how often we whack them around on the editorial page.
Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long has certainly caught his share of slings and arrows from us, but he was one of the first candidates to accept our invitation. We had a lively discussion, including his efforts to stop the “summer slide” too many students take between June and September. That forces teachers to spend the first part of the school year catching up on old ground.
I was impressed by the passion and civility of school board incumbents Sarah Ambrogi, Leslie Want, Lisa Freeman, Ross Terrio, and Erika Connors. There are some big issues facing Manchester schools, but most of the current board, and many of the challengers, agree that Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas has hit the ground running, and is willing to shake things up.
I caught up with old hands from past political battles, such as Chris Stewart, running for alderman in Ward 1, and former State Rep. Tammy Simmons, running for alderman in Ward 10.
I spoke with Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann about how his pilot program for automated trash pickup is working. All’s well so far, as Manchester residents adapted quickly to the new bins, and workers’ comp claims are down.
The ongoing opioid crisis is still the top issue, and attitudes about addiction are changing. Two addicts in recovery are running, which would not have been politically viable just a few years ago.
In Ward 11, Russ Ouellette is asking for a second chance after he let alcohol derail his life, and his aldermanic seat five years ago.
Ward 1 school board candidate Joe Lachance was addicted to painkillers, and was one of New Hampshire’s first medical marijuana patients.
Aldermanic candidates Tim Baines and Peter Macone each run restaurants on Elm Street, giving them a different perspective on how the crisis is hitting Manchester’s downtown.
Manchester’s newest alderman, 30-year-old Elizabeth Ann Moreau, has only been to a couple of meetings so far. But she’s back knocking on doors to win a full term, pregnant with her second child.
Mark Flanders started his family later in life. At 61, he still has two kids at Central. Jon DiPietro calculates that his four kids have already racked up 30 years in the Manchester school system.
Politics is a rough, ugly business sometimes. It may feel worse now than ever, but it’s always been nasty. Manchester is well-served to have so many hard-working candidates willing to share their visions for the city. I thank them for their time, and wish them luck on Nov. 7.
We’ll be offering Manchester voters our advice on which candidates to choose in some of these races in the coming days.
By the way, if you’re planning to submit a Letter to the Editor about the Nov. 7 municipal elections, please get it to us by Friday, Oct. 27. Email to Letters@unionleader.com, please keep it to 250 words, and include your name, address, and phone number.
Grant Bosse is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News.