Manchester Board of Aldermen Q&A
November 01. 2013 11:58PM
Board of Aldermen
1) What is the most important issue facing the city?
2) What is the most important issue facing residents of your ward?
3) Do you support hiring additional police officers? If so, how would you propose funding the positions?
ALDERMAN WARD 1
Occupation: Property manager
Relevant Experience: I have been the Ward 1 alderman for the past four years and prior to that I was a Board of School Committee member. I worked in Boston for a number of years at a leading advertising agency as well as a start-up medical service company where I developed strategic plans and managed multi-million dollar budgets.
1) I believe the most important issue facing Manchester is the ability to provide quality education to all students. Over the years, we have seen significant cuts. There has been an increase in class sizes and many critical courses have been eliminated. We need to implement sustainable programs/course offerings that correlate to gains in student achievement. This will increase our property values, retain and attract families and businesses to Manchester and ensure our children are prepared to be successful, contributing members of society. I believe crime follows as a close second. Like many cities, Manchester has seen an increase in crime. With this, home values decrease, neighborhood satisfaction decreases and there is an increase in the desire to move. We need to make Manchester a safe, attractive place where people want to stay and raise a family.
2) In speaking with residents of Ward 1, there are three main topics that typically come up. First, and I believe the most important issue facing residents of Ward 1, is education. I hear from many parents that are involved and engaged in their children's education and they are concerned about inadequacies that exist. Second is public safety. Burglaries are always a concern. In addition, speeding is an issue. Drivers tend to drive fast on some of the side streets which is hazardous as there are often children at play. Third is the condition of our roads. There are many roads in need of repair and repaving.
3) I support hiring additional police officers. Given the need to keep taxes down, I believe we need to look at federal grant programs. For example, in 2013, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), allocated $127 million in grants nationwide for the COPS Hiring Program and $8.5 million in grants nationwide for Community Policing Development. Programs such as these would allow us to hire more police officers without impacting the tax rate. If need be, when the grants run out, we can pay for these police officers with savings realized from retirements within the police department. Accordingly, there would be little to no impact to the taxpayer, except for having additional police on the streets.
Occupation: Construction Manager
Relevant experience: I have worked on many large scale ($1M-$250M) construction projects with various private and governmental interests. My experience includes managing time and money delivering a quality product on time and on budget.
1) The most important issue is our fiscal health. My opponent has no plan to deal with our downgraded credit, our $100M shortfall in the pension system, nor do I expect her to support taxpayer-friendly contracts for city employees. I believe that taxpayer money should be thought of in the same way you deal with your own money, unfortunately many on the board look at it as a slush fund to repay favors. The issue of "Cadillac Tax" is also something to be dealt with, my opponent is proud of her party which has hung this awful legislation around our necks. Where will the millions come from, or will we cut the benefits to our employees to avoid such a tax? We need fiscal leadership.
2) I believe the performance of our schools is Ward 1's most pressing issue. Dealing with this is the hard part, many think throwing more taxpayer dollars at the schools will solve this. In no way will paying teachers more make them more effective nor will supplying students with more and more technology or other shiny new things. There is no magic pixie dust solution. We have dedicated teachers who are saddled with a wide array of issues, many of which have little to do with education. I believe that we need to be more creative in how we solve these issues and allow teachers to use their training more effectively. Simply eliminating the tax cap and raising taxes on young and old certainly will not solve it.
3) I believe a top-to-bottom review of the police department is needed. We have a chief who lives in Bedford and is out of touch. He waited until we had a rash of burglaries to say he needed more officers and finger-printing software. We have had numerous scandals in the department from drunk driving arrests, to hit-and-run by an officer, to most recently a police commissioner destroying campaign signs. Before we commit more resources to the PD we need to be sure we have effective leadership.
ALDERMAN WARD 2
Relevant experience: Current alderman for past four years; former Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Director in Manchester; resident of Manchester for 62 years.
1) Education and public safety.
2) Education, Public safety and tax rate.
3) I have, and would support hiring additional officers. I would suggest funding by virtue of grant applications. This allows the department to get new officers trained under the grant. If successful, the police chief could then plan on maintaining his complement through retirements. This would cut down on large budget increases going forward when grant funding is exhausted and officers are absorbed into the department.
Occupation: Data collection and inspector for insurance underwriter part-time; semi-retired
Relevant experience: Served one term as state representative. Manufacturing engineer in high tech
1) Taxes, spending and growth and adequate funding for more choice in education.
2) Street conditions and lack of police presence on a regular basis.
3) I support moving more police officers to community police. Beat cops go a long way in reducing property crime. That should be accomplished with available manpower when possible.
ALDERMAN WARD 3
NOTE: Ward 3 candidate Merav Yaakov did not return a survey.
Occupation: Retired union ironworker
Relevant experience: six-year incumbent
1) Economic development and family-sustaining jobs. It's imperative that Manchester continues to grow its business community. This growth increases the tax base and avails opportunity with respect to jobs. I'm of the opinion that has we review proposals in economic development, that every aspect of our families structure needs to be addressed. Opportunities for our youth to learn the benefits of hard work and the rewards associated with part time employment; opportunities for adults responsible for assuring the quality of life finances needed in sustaining the changing needs of housing, insurance and basic needs; opportunities' for our elders to supplement their limited income and remain an active participant in our economy. All of the above creates disposable income, which in return contributes to a financially healthy and vibrant Manchester.
2) Quality of life issues continue to drive the residents of Ward 3. Our elders work with me in maintaining and developing ways to make it easier to travel within all Manchester has to offer, including access to clear sidewalks, bus access and housing quality. We continue to maintain access to our parks, free from panhandlers and intimidation from undesirables. We maintain our involvement with the division of community police in addressing successfully concerns of residents in every area within Ward 3. Every issue that a constituent brings to me is the most important issue facing Ward 3.
3) I do support hiring additional police officers. I'm of the opinion that Manchester needs to move towards our police officers knowing the area in which they patrol. I don't believe that continuing to pull manpower from other areas within the Police Department is sustainable. I do believe that until we increase our patrol complement, that practice is necessary. The pursuit of police grants continue to be an area that our police chief is diligent in increasing our complement. Immediate replacements of patrol officers as retirements occur allows our salary and benefit line items to remain under budget.
ALDERMAN WARD 4
NOTE: Alderman Jim Roy (incumbent) did not return a survey.
Occupation: Engineer/Project Manager
Relevant experience: Talking to actual citizens in the ward, balancing a household budget, understanding how math and economics work.
1) Keeping it affordable for folks to live here. I don't know anyone whose paycheck is bigger this year than last year, yet the city's spending has gone up every single of the last three years. We can't keep raising property taxes on folks who are struggling already, or folks on a fixed income. All across the nation, large cities have made budget promises and pension promises to unions that they can't keep; cities like Detroit, Stockton, Calif., and Central Falls, RI have gone bankrupt raising taxes and driving citizens and jobs away. We have to govern Manchester and its budget as if we are going to live here for the next 100 years, not just until the next election.
2) I believe it is making ends meet. City government cannot control that the cost of food is rising, that the cost of living is rising and that state and federal taxes are going up, as they always will. But city government does not have to pile on and take even more food off our neighbors' plates. And we sure as heck shouldn't spend tomorrow's money today.
3) I do not support any additional hiring at this time. All across the economy, every company and household is having to make do with less, and no part of government can be an exception. Every large city's pension plan assumes rates of growth that are impossible in a post-bubble economy, and it would irresponsible to hire a young officer and promise him or her that we will take care of their needs after they retire, when that money mathematically does not exist. Better to pay down Manchester's debts and actually start saving, so that the city can provide services later, when residents will really need them.
ALDERMAN WARD 6
Occupation: Attorney, Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. in Manchester.
Relevant experience: Ward 6 alderman, 2010-present
1)Manchester must invest in itself and that starts by prioritizing our taxpayers' investments in education and public safety. City Hall should recognize and do more to address the challenges facing our working families who feel their children won't receive a quality education and who feel less safe in their own neighborhoods.
2) Quality of life, including more police patrols so senior citizens feel safe in their homes and addressing the needs of our children who are stuck in overcrowded classes. We also must improve our roads and infrastructure, expand recycling and work to minimize disruptions from East Side construction projects.
3) Yes. We should pursue allocating surplus budget funds within the tax cap, using healthcare savings and seeking other sources of revenue to hire new officers annually.
Occupation: Business development executive, software; director of business development, Vision International Missions
Relevant experience: Strong business experience in both corporate and small business sectors within New England. Non-profit experience for international organizations that assist in orphanages, clothing distribution and medical clinics. Member of the board of directors/treasurer of a Manchester private school. United States Army veteran with the Military Police.
1) The most important issue facing the city of Manchester is the $100 million pension deficit. Although our pension system is filled to 60 percent, we still have a serious threat to our city as it continues to go unfunded. Detroit is an example of a city that allows their deficit to go unfunded and ends horribly for everyone: local government, city employees, unions that support the city and the taxpayers that live within the city. There are companies and local municipalities across this country that have fixed their deficit by instituting creative solutions and allowing everyone to sit down and discuss solutions together that will make a better and stronger city
2) Constituent service. The residents of Ward 6 want an alderman who understands the value of service. An alderman is available to take (and return) calls, emails and discuss the concerns facing each constituent individually. Many issues can be solved easily; all that is required is a follow-up call. By being a citizen-focused alderman, you develop a level of trust with people that is more than lacking in government today. My top focus is to address constituent issues, implement constituent ideas, and, most importantly, fight for the people of Ward 6 at City Hall. They used to have such representation, and I will bring that back to the ward.
3) Crime in Manchester has fluctuated within the past few years. It's no secret that we have seen some increase in criminal activity. I also believe our neighborhoods should have additional police officers reaching out to them and being a positive community presence. As a Military Policeman while in the armed forces, I understand the value a police force can have within a community. While I support the hiring of additional police officers, we need to find money for them within the existing budget. For example, if we institute new tele-com technology within our city offices, we can reduce those costs by close to a half-million dollars. This would allow us to hire six additional police officers. This is just one of many creative ways we can find additional funds for city services and tax relief.
ALDERMAN WARD 9
Occupation: Retired teacher/administrator, presently Alderman Ward 9 and NH State Representative
Relevant experience: Alderman 4 years; NH state representative 14 years, serving on State Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee, Education Committee, chairman of Task Force on Homeless Teens, and legislative liaison to Home Education Advisory Council; former PSU Alumni Board of Directors, 15 years; past president of Goffe's Falls Civic Association, 5 years.
1) The most important issue facing the city is maintaining a budget within the tax cap to benefit our taxpayers and still provide necessary funding for schools, departments, personnel, and city services. This is difficult, requires tough choices, and can only be implemented by working as a team. No one person can do this alone.
2) The most important issue facing my ward is safety in our homes and on our streets. Traffic (speeding, volume, failure to obey signs) is ongoing and will increase with the relocation of Walmart. We need better lighting in several areas and the expansion of neighborhood watch groups to help curb crime, especially burglaries. We have made some progress and will continue to work together to improve these areas. We are not done yet.
3) I support the hiring of more police officers. Our city has grown and changed, but the number of officers has not increased proportionately. More boots on the street will definitely help curb crime and ease some of the concerns regarding safety. Certainly there are monies to be had in applications and approvals for grants and government programs. Within our budget we can find items that can be reduced or put on temporary hold. By setting up a three-year or five-year plan, the cost could be spread out to ease the impact of funding. Again, this is a team effort that can be accomplished by the mayor, board and departments working as a team.
Occupation: Selectman for the city of Manchester; work at home mother
Relevant experience: Former small business owner, president of the Highland Goffe's Falls Elementary School's PTA. Started the HGF Drama which is completely volunteer run. I work with several community organizations and have a great deal of experience working within a budget and making responsible financial decisions.
1) Quality of life. People feel as though their quality of life in the city has diminished over the last few years. I understand that the country is struggling, but people want to feel comfortable where they live. While out walking the ward people have been very vocal about the lack of traffic law enforcement, parking enforcement, lack of police presence, the threat of break-ins in their neighborhood, the vandalism and grafitti and a feeling that we are not making the best choices for the education of our children. Each of these issues takes its toll on your quality of life and enjoyment of your city.
2) Many people in Ward 9 are concerned about traffic and parking laws not being enforced. President Road for example has two stop signs that are rarely obeyed and a "no trucks" sign that is completely ignored. The threat of Wal-Mart on Gold Street has these citizens (as well as citizens on Gold, Sewell, S. Beech) very concerned about how much worse these issues are going to become. Mystic Street has a terrible issue with the Beechmont Market customers parking cars on the sidewalks, blocking access to the street and mailbox and creating a dangerous situation as they are trying to edge out of their street on to S. Beech. There is also the ongoing problem of high speeds on S. Beech and Calef, but also on the side streets and the fact that cars blatantly disregard red lights and fly through them at dangerous speeds. These issues again to speak to the quality of life for these residents and need to be addressed.
3) I do support hiring additional offices and feel confident that, if we worked with the unions, we could find a way to bring that to fruition. That being said, I would first like to take steps to re-examine how we are using the current police force and see if there isn't a more efficient way to use the resources that we have.
ALDERMAN WARD 10
Occupation: Small Business Owner
Relevant experience: Ward 10 alderman, vice chairman of the city finance committee, chairman of administration; served as a state representative on the criminal justice committee. As a business owner I am also experienced with budgets, employee management, and customer service.
1) There isn't just one most important issue facing the city, there are many. Each citizen has a certain issue more important to them than others. Whether it's a down economy, a rise in crime, a struggling education system, or taxes and spending, the citizens of Manchester deserve a mayor and alderman who will work hard for improvements in all areas.
2) The residents of Ward 10 share the challenges of the city in making ends meet, dealing with crime, educating our kids, and the amount of money they have to pay in taxes. We need a strong voice at City Hall willing to say no if necessary, especially if the city is going in the wrong direction as claimed by my opponent. Voting yes for the wrong direction isn't good for the residents of Ward 10 or the city.
3) Sure, if we need them. In order to pay for more officers that stay on permanently and truly increase the force, we should first look at ways to save money in other areas, or prioritize city spending. One quick example could be how our trash is collected. We've all seen how well single stream recycling works and the truck that picks it up. If we apply that method to our trash collection and require all trash to fit within a tote, there could be roughly a two-thirds savings on labor and a huge reduction in workers compensation injuries and claims. That savings could be applied to hire more officers dealing with crime, and that takes a different kind of trash off the street. There are also plenty of other ways a mayor and aldermen can do things better in order to place resources where they're needed.
Occupation: Law Enforcement
Relevant experience: 28 years in law enforcement, 35 years of community service in Manchester, advocate of Neighborhood Watch Group
1) Crime is the biggest issue in our city. I have had the opportunity to meet with the residents of Ward 10. They are very concerned about the number of burglaries and violent crimes that have plagued our city. I have been in law enforcement for over 28 years. I know first hand the effect that these crimes have on families. Public safety will be a high priority of mine.
2) Crime (see above)
3) Yes. It is very important that we formulate a plan to make sure that our police department has the resources necessary to keep our families and properties safe. I will be in constant contact with our police chief to see what we can do as a community to insure our safety. Federal grants are an important tool to use to assist us in keeping our city taxes to a minimum. I will also propose a five year plan to get more police officers on the street. Many people are struggling to make ends meet. It is my goal to stay within our tax cap. Ward 10 needs an alderman that is committed to public safety. We can't afford an alderman that continues to vote "no" on public safety issues.
ALDERMAN WARD 11
NOTE: Incumbent Normand Gamache and challenger Chris Hussey did not return surveys.
ALDERMAN WARD 12
Occupation: Former Manchester police officer and current Manchester social worker; homeless outreach specialist
Relevant experience: I am a lifelong resident of Manchester's West Side and a proud graduate of both Parker Varney Elementary School, West High School and Granite State College with a B/S degree in Public Service Management. I am a small business owner, and I have extensive experience working in law enforcement and social work in Manchester. I have also served the city and Ward 12 previously as a state representative and as a two term school board member.
1) The most important issue facing the city is crime, followed very closely by education. I am very concerned with the rise in the number of burglaries and the recent increase in violent crime in our city, and very concerned with overcrowding in our schools. I hope to bring my experience in law enforcement and social work, and my experience on the school board to effectively address these issues as your alderman.
2) In addition to the city-wide concerns about public safety, and education, I think the residents of Ward 12 are concerned about the over development of Hackett Hill, and the lack of local oversight and local control of the new NH Jobs Corps. I would work to empower the residents of the ward so that they have a seat at the table and feel like their voices are being heard in development decisions.
3) Talking to voters in Ward 12, I have heard a lot of concern about crime and public safety. With violent crimes increasing annually, it may be very necessary for the city to hire additional officers. If the board of aldermen decides to hire additional officers, then we need to do it in a fiscally responsible way, and we would first look to see what additional federal money would available to help fund these positions. However, I believe that the safety of our citizens has to be our priority. If we aren't doing everything we can to protect our citizens, then I believe we aren't doing our job as elected officials.
Keith D. Hirschmann
Occupation: Fire alarm and security company owner
Relevant Experience: Ward 12 alderman 1996-2002; three terms Public Safety Committee, Safety Review Board member; two terms Civic Center Design and Construction Committees.
1) The most important issue facing the city is controlling costs while insurance policy costs are soaring as well as crime constantly posing fear which will require added budget funds. We must face these challenges head on and at the same time make difficult cuts to defend the tax cap for our taxpayers.
2) The most important issue in Ward 12 is making sure that the police have the resources to patrol our huge sector for crime calls, traffic and safety as the volume of vehicles speeding and accidents is a daily worry, as well as the safety of children and pedestrians. There are many dangerous conditions that need attention (signage) and enforcement.
3) Yes, I support hiring additional police officers. I say that you add five positions to the 2014 budget and declare them essential to pay for these jobs. We make cuts in non-essential areas, such as the aldermen's health insurance, which would free up a minimum of $144,000. That would be a start. We will add police and stay within the tax cap. I will make sure of it.