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Patrick Arnold: There is significant room for improvement in Manchester

July 30. 2013 6:23PM

Since 2009, I have had the pleasure of serving the citizens and taxpayers of Manchester as a member of the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen. During that time, I have seen firsthand the great opportunities our city has to offer. Any conversation about what makes Manchester great always begins with her people. I chose to come to Manchester to attend law school. I met my wife here and very recently our first daughter was born here. I believe in this city and in her citizens, and I am certain that our best days are ahead of us.

Manchester has a long tradition of leading the way in New Hampshire. From the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium and the Verizon Wireless Arena to the Mall of New Hampshire on South Willow Street, Manchester has historically been best in class. Unfortunately, Mayor Ted Gatsas has been either unable or unwilling to keep us moving forward. We find ourselves shrinking from challenges rather than meeting them. Mayor Gatsas continues to ignore problems while trying to convince us that we are on the right track. We are not on the right track, and that’s why I am running for mayor.

Education and economic development are inextricably linked. Over the last several years, the challenges of the Manchester school system have been well documented. Our community has endured large curriculum cuts and massive teacher layoffs under the guise of fiscal responsibility. These decisions have resulted in larger class sizes — many failing to meet the state’s minimum standards — and have led the city into legal battles with surrounding towns looking to educate their children elsewhere. Why does Mayor Gatsas continue to say that we are on the right track with our schools?

An independent auditing firm recently conducted a district-wide review of our school system. The final report, available on the School District’s website, points out systemic and fundamental problems with how our district operates. Contrary to the assertions made by Mayor Gatsas, the report shows virtually no improvement in our district over the last four years. We have dedicated professionals and hard-working students in Manchester. We also have challenges, especially at City Hall, that are only worsened by a “my way or the highway” management style. Refusing to admit that challenges exist in our district is not leadership.

As mayor, I will work to make our schools the envy of the state. I will work together with parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers, not to meet minimum standards but to rise well above them. Meeting minimum standards is not good enough for Manchester. Our kids and our community deserve better. Together we are capable of delivering excellence in education.

We must focus on job growth and economic development too. Recently, to the objection of many business owners, the mayor moved the city’s economic development department into his own office. Economic development decisions are already too political. This move makes such decisions even more political. Why should an entrepreneur looking to start a business be forced to go through the mayor’s office in order to get something done?

The notion that business owners need political friends inside City Hall is offensive, but unsurprising under Mayor Gatsas’ business-as-usual approach. Over the last four years, we have seen several “deals” of dubious benefit, from a vendor contract for city IT services to land deals such as Hackett Hill. We have seen the mayor oppose efforts to hold accountable those who seek to enter into deals with the city. During a recent discussion concerning a loan to a local restaurant, we saw the mayor claim that money earned from taxpayer property does not constitute “taxpayer money.”

Taxpayers of our community deserve better, and by working together, we are capable of changing the way business is conducted at City Hall. Manchester has the potential to be a regional leader in the 21st century. As mayor, I will work to ensure that bureaucratic red tape and political agenda don’t stand in the way of entrepreneurs who want to grow our city’s economy.

Mayor Gatsas would have us believe that we are on the right track in our community, that our streets can be no safer, that our schools can be no stronger, and that City Hall can be no more supportive to business owners and job growth. I believe there is significant room for improvement and that our city can again lead in being the best place to live and raise a family. This is my vision for Manchester. In this year’s race for mayor, if you believe that we can do better than where we are today I am asking for your vote.

Patrick Arnold, a Democrat, is the Ward 12 alderman and a candidate for mayor of Manchester.

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