NASHUA — Nineteen candidates for various aldermen positions gathered on Thursday to debate hot topics in Nashua, including downtown improvements, city crime and local businesses.
Hosted by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, the candidates forum gave incumbents and newcomers a platform to educate the public about their campaign.
Six candidates will battle it out for three alderman-at-large positions on the Nov. 5 ballot. Incumbents Mark Cookson, David Deane and Barbara Pressly will try to secure their seats while facing off against former alderman Paula Johnson and current ward aldermen Diane Sheehan and Dan Moriarty.
"I am confident, and I understand what Nashua needs," said Moriarty, who has traveled door-to-door throughout the city discussing various city issues with residents. Moriarty says he is proud of his accomplishments on the board as the Ward 9 alderman, and has established a reputation as a dedicated board member.
Deane says he enjoys volunteering, and is looking forward to serving his next term as an alderman. Deane maintained that he can offer a voice of reason on the board.
Johnson, a former state representative, says the Board of Aldermen needs more accountability and transparency while also focusing on lowering taxes.
"I have seen changes that demand my expertise and knowledge," said Johnson. " … We need common sense."
Sheehan noted her collaborative work on different neighborhood initiatives to reduce crime, saying she has proven results and is proud of her efforts to fix blighted areas of the city.
"I care about our schools. I care about our environment," said her opponent, Pressly. "I believe that I am fair, I care and I am fierce."
Cookson contended that he is a good listener, is available to the public and has worked hard to represent the people of Nashua.
When asked what should be done to support city businesses, ward aldermen had different opinions on how to best champion for the Gate City business community.
David Schoneman, Ward 3 candidate, said there are too many downtown businesses that have closed in recent years.
"We need pedestrian traffic down there," he said, explaining there needs to be more free parking available downtown to provide an incentive for potential visitors.
His opponent, Paul Shea, admits there has been some fallout from the recession, especially downtown. Shea says more must be done to make the downtown livable and walkable, possibly by developing a pedestrian master plan.
Alderman Mike Tabacsko, Ward 5, said he is proud of the recent downtown improvements and the changes to the streetscape, adding he is happy to have played a role in the city's new branding campaign that he hopes will help attract new businesses to Nashua.
His opponent, Mike Soucy, believes that Nashua should look at potential tax incentives for businesses, focusing on bringing high tech jobs from Massachusetts into the city.
Jeff Cox, Ward 9 candidate, said more can be done to help business owners such as himself, especially when it concerns permitting processes. If elected, he is looking forward to bringing professionalism and civility to the board.
While addressing the controversial downtown improvements, Elenore Casey Krane, a former state representative seeking the Ward 2 alderman seat, said too much money has been spent on the downtown project. She suggested that innovative ideas in government such as crowd funding should be considered in Nashua for certain projects.
"The project needed to be undertaken," said her opponent, incumbent Richard Dowd. People are often resistant to change, he said, but now is the time to get the work completed and make it cost effective in the process.
Alderman Arthur Craffey, Ward 4, said something had to be done to clean up the dangerous sidewalks. Admitting that the spending on the project needs to be watched, he said he supports the overall project.
His opponent, state Rep. Pam Brown, said that although the improvements are attractive, it is "a bit extravagant." Brown maintained that other priorities could have been addressed.
Alderman Paul Chasse, Ward 6, said it was his job to help approve funds for the project, not design the sidewalks. Still, he stressed the project should have gone out to bid and perhaps the work would have been finished sooner without city crews doing the work.
His opponent, Kathy Snyder, says she supports the downtown sidewalk improvements, but believes if more people would have been involved in the process it could have been more cost effective.
Alderman Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja, Ward 8, admits the improvements were necessary, however she said the city did not have a system in place to adequately track the finances of the entire project, which she believes will eventually get more people to live and walk downtown.
Her opponent, Jack Currier, who serves on the local zoning board, said he is a big fan of downtown Nashua. The completion of the riverwalk and sidewalks will be a big asset for the city, but he acknowledges that cutting Main Street trees seems to be a contested issue by citizens.