I GREW UP in Manchester. I attended public school in Manchester. I bought my first house in Manchester. I raised my daughters in Manchester. I served on the Manchester Planning Board for four years and coached my daughter’s sports teams in the city.

It’s a special place to me and filled with memories and many life experiences. But what I have seen going on lately in the city is concerning, disappointing and candidly embarrassing.

I bought a house outside of the city over 10 years ago and haven’t lived there since. I go to Manchester a lot to visit friends, shop and eat at many of the great restaurants throughout the city.

But the last three times I have been to Manchester really blew my mind. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and I was shocked.

A month ago I had dinner with a friend at a restaurant on Elm Street. Due to the pandemic, we were sitting outside on the sidewalk. Over the course of an hour and a half, I witnessed numerous people walking by completely under the influence of some substance and barely able to walk. Several times people even stopped by our table and asked for money. It made me never want to eat there again.

Last week, I was in the city to visit friends and have dinner. As I was getting off Exit 5, I looked across the river and noticed several tents on the shore of the Merrimack River. It was a homeless camp. There were even clotheslines hanging between the trees with laundry hanging on them that was likely hand washed in the river. How is this allowed to happen?

As I turned off the exit, there were people standing on several corners holding signs, begging for money from the motorists passing by. I passed by, came to another light and stopped. A group of five people walked in front of my car. They looked like zombies. It looked like they hadn’t showered in weeks. They were wandering around aimlessly, and I don’t even want to know what they were up to.

That same night, I left dinner and was getting onto the on-ramp of the highway. There was a car in front of me that had five people in it. The driver and passenger were talking when the light turned green. I waited a few seconds, then gave a quick honk to tell them to go. They kept talking. I waited a few more seconds, gave another honk. Nothing. I honked again, and they finally started driving. He then stopped his car in the middle of the on-ramp and opened the driver door. He got halfway out, stared at me as if he was coming up to my car and then got back in his car. I couldn’t believe it.

Manchester is an amazing city. It has so much to offer. There are so many amazing people who live there. There are so many great businesses. How can these things happen? How can such a vibrant city that has come so far, end up like this.

I don’t have all the answers. I do know that those responsible for running the city need to wake up and change things. I do have plenty of ideas, but my space here is limited.

The residents and visitors of Manchester deserve better. Nobody wants to walk to work or go out to eat and have to pass through a crowd of zombies, degenerates and panhandlers. It’s bad for business and quite frankly, will stop people from coming back.

It’s time to take back the great city of Manchester. The elected officials in Manchester need to step up. And they need to step up now. Have you ever heard of the broken windows theory? If not, look it up.

Christopher Thompson (christhompsnh@gmail.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly.

Sunday, July 12, 2020