Mayor's 'State of the City' address: Manchester 'not so far off' from being place where families want to liveBy MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 22. 2018 9:27AM
MANCHESTER — Newly-elected Mayor Joyce Craig gave an upbeat view of the Queen City, saying at one point on Wednesday that Manchester is “not so far off” from being a place where families and people want to live.
Craig gave her assessment during her first “State of the City” address, held during a breakfast meeting of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce at The Derryfield Restaurant.
In 10 years, Craig said, she envisions a city with the best schools in the state, all children succeeding, commuter rail, safe streets, a green park along the Merrimack River and “a place where families want to be, people want to be.”
“I feel we’re getting there and not so far off,” Craig said during a question and answer session that followed a speech.
Her upbeat tone is in contrast with that of the campaign, when she bemoaned low test scores, a reluctance of newcomers to move into the city, and the hesitancy of her opponent – Mayor Ted Gatsas – to discuss shortcomings of the city.
Craig said the community has to enhance the education of city schools, and city schools are getting a bad rap.
“We all have to be believers in our public schools,” Craig said.
She addressed a near-capacity crowd of about 150 business and community leaders. They applauded her remarks when she lauded the work of city workers in general, and police and fire in another instance.
Craig has been in office about 12 weeks and she’’ll soon present her first budget. Any increase will have to be less than 2 percent under the city tax cap.
Craig said she will present a tax cap budget and “openly address” initiatives she says the tax cap prevents her from pursuing.
“There will be things I will be able to address in my budget and thing I will not be able to address,” Craig said.
• Craig announced the establishment of a Manchester Business Council, co-chaired by Michael Skelton, president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, to create plans for short-term and long-term economic growth.
• Craig said she will soon “announce a unique opportunity that promises to have a positive, long-term effect on our (school) district.” She said it will set the community on a realistic course for strengthening public schools.
• She said educational challenges include low spending and test scores, and high poverty and special education rates. She said schools need a districtwide literacy program, a standard math program, curriculum alignment and a closing of achievement gaps.
• Safe Station has moved to a comprehensive approach to treatment rather than a mere access point, Craig said. It now takes two to three days for a Safe Station patient to get into treatment, compared to two to three weeks in the past.
Craig noted she has been in office 78 days and is impressed with the support she’s received.
“The desire to make our city better is just so encouraging,” she said.