The New Hampshire Union Leader asked each of the four candidates for Manchester’s two alderman at large seats four questions about their stances on issues and their plans for addressing them.
Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 200 words. Responses are presented alphabetically, with minimal editing for clarity. Biographical information was provided by the candidates.
Here are the responses:
Q: As an alderman, how would you work to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in Manchester?
GOONAN: I worked hard to develop a response to the homeless issue in the City of Manchester. This is a very complex issue with many moving parts. This crisis impacts the quality of life in the city, and it has begun to creep into our neighborhoods. The core of our problem is that we have about 150 individuals, with the majority having severe persistent mental health problems, and a broken statewide system. Manchester should not be solely responsible for the bulk of the state’s homeless issues. Other factors include New Hampshire’s largest jail in our community, the state’s largest homeless shelter, lack of affordable housing, and scarce treatment resources in the rest of the state. Bail reform is also tying the hands of police and provides little consequence for criminal actions. We must let our police department effectively do their jobs and fully address criminal behavior. “Leaf-blowing” our homeless from site to site is not the answer. Individuals with physical and mental disabilities or addictions and are homeless need treatment and a place to recover. To make real change, Manchester must have a seat at the table in Concord and have control on where federal funds are directed to our community and how state decisions impact what’s happening in our city.
LEVASSEUR: Aldermen were told, after I asked the question of our new Homeless Coordinator, that ‘anyone who wanted a place to stay or live, could get a place to stay or live...and these people choose to live outside.’ Most, if not all, of the vagrants living outside choose to do so. The mayor has stated these people do not want to live inside, and the facts speak for themselves. I have, and will continue to vote against providing services for people who choose not to get off the streets and live on our public lands. Anyone found violating our laws and ordinances must be held fully accountable through our courts. These people cannot continue to be allowed to ruin this city’s quality of life. If homeless people really want help, this city provides the services necessary for that help, but it is their choice to do so.
O’NEIL: The City of Manchester must refocus our efforts on making sure there are mental health services available for all those that are homeless. Mental health is the common illness for many of those that are homeless.
TRISCIANI: Manchester’s housing challenges result from the confluence of several issues.
1.) Lack of affordable housing. At a less than 1% vacancy rate, Manchester lacks affordable units to meet demand. Additionally, property owners and tenants are often unaware of American Rescue Plan funds available to bring buildings up to par and provide rental assistance. I will continue to work to improve public awareness of such programs. I support the Housing Commission and their charter to work on the development of a balanced/diverse supply of housing; I will also continue work with Planning & Community Development to re-evaluate our zoning ordinances to accommodate diverse housing options.
2.) Substance abuse. This directly contributes to loss of employment and to poverty. I support the Manchester Police Department’s efforts to reduce availability of illegal drugs in our city as well as the partnerships with faith-based organizations to provide support to individuals seeking assistance.
3.) Mental health. The American Rescue Plan allows us to hire community health workers to supplement the police on check-condition calls. Today, Fire, Police & Health Departments work together to proactively provide wellness checks on unhoused individuals while fostering relationships to improve the likelihood of someone getting the help they need.
Q: What can the Board of Mayor and Aldermen do to save small businesses? How do we make sure, when we come back from COVID, our local businesses are still here?
GOONAN: I recently discussed this question with the owner of a successful small business in Manchester. Small business is the backbone of a healthy community and is the economic engine that supports our city. This is particularly true in our downtown area.
The safety of our community is a major factor toward making our city attractive to small business. It also has a significant impact on allowing established businesses to continue to attract customers. Addressing homelessness, and continuing community policing efforts can help change the perception that our city is unsafe for small businesses and their customers. I also think it is time to look at our zoning.
What changes could make it easier for small businesses to pivot and adapt? We need to look for new opportunities for mixed-use areas. We must work with state and federal resources to make small business loans and grants available. These will help businesses recover from the impact of the pandemic. Another issue that I have experienced as a department head was how difficult it is for business owners to get through the bureaucracy of city approvals. There needs to be a single location to address all questions concerning licensing, building approvals, and zoning issues.
LEVASSEUR: The city and midterm elections are critical to getting on the right track. Mayor Craig hides under her desk praying she will get reelected, but even worse than her, it’s imperative we stop Joe Biden’s socialist agenda. Since Biden has taken office, inflation, costs of goods, energy and costs associated with hiring and keeping employees have skyrocketed. There were many good loans and grants available for small business during the peak of COVID, and many businesses were able to get those loans and survive. However, what businesses are dealing with since the takeover of Washington, D.C., by Biden and his Democrat stooges has been nothing short of stunning. As a former restaurant owner, I have witnessed the recent price increases of food, beverage and employee wages; and energy prices will skyrocket soon. As bad as COVID was/is, it is nothing like the anti-business government we are seeing and dealing with today. Business owners are very nervous and they should be. These self-inflicted crises must be stopped at the polls. God help us all if we do not turn this around soon.
O’NEIL: City government must make sure that we are supportive of the regulatory needs of our small businesses and make sure regulations are not an obstacle.
TRISCIANI: As a small business owner, I understand the challenges faced during COVID. I appreciate and support funding made available through the American Rescue Plan. As part of ongoing Community Development Block Grants, eligibility has been expanded and can be used for small business grants to cover demonstrated losses due to COVID-19, including the costs for the addition/expansion of outdoor spaces and support for business planning and technical assistance. I fully support the reinvestment in Manchester’s Economic Development Office with funds to hire an Economic Development Director and a Business Liaison. This is a vital resource to support existing small businesses and help with the development of new businesses in Manchester. The funding available to support the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and our local hospitality and tourism industry is also key to bringing people to Manchester. Whether it be to stay, work or play are all beneficial to our community.
Additionally, the establishment of Community Event & Activation Grants will provide opportunities for organizations, individuals, and neighborhood groups to apply for grant funding for events or physical investments that will also strengthen communities and support local businesses.
Q: Young professionals say Manchester needs more “starter homes” or more affordable rent prices for them to stay in the city. What will you do as alderman to address rising rent and housing costs, and how do you plan on keeping young people and people in general in Manchester?
GOONAN: Affordable housing and the general lack of is a major issue in Manchester; our vacancy rate is at less than 1%. The NH Bureau of Housing predicts that we need at least 20,000 units in NH now to alleviate our current situation. These factors force our rents higher, make it difficult for our low-to-moderate-income workers to afford housing, and can push home ownership out of reach for many. These issues hurt our ability to grow as a community, create jobs, and keep talented workers in Manchester. It is necessary to use a portion of the $43 million earmarked for this community from the CARES Act to incentivize developers to construct affordable housing in Manchester. Manchester needs more housing to keep up with the demand. Housing construction in Manchester is very active; I believe the increased volume will help. Manchester is also the economic machine that powers our great state. Our Millyard is a nationally recognized technology area, and our airport is expanding. Colleges, sporting venues, a thriving nightlife, and its location make Manchester an attractive place to live, especially for young people. A fully staffed Economic Development Department is vital to address this issue and ensure that we have a comprehensive plan.
LEVASSEUR: Right now it costs approximately $5,800 in impact fees to turn a former one-floor attorney office into an apartment. I know of one real estate developer that wants to create an apartment, but the impact fee, on top of permit fees and costs associated with building the unit out, is financially prohibitive. Manchester freezes the tax rate for conversion of old buildings into livable housing units for five years. This plan has worked well. In order to create more housing units, I propose impact fees be frozen for any/all units converted from commercial buildings/units into livable housing units, no matter the location or the size. This will create many more housing units, which will help with supply, and hopefully bring rental prices down.
O’NEIL: The city must be a financial partner with the creation of all types of affordable housing.
TRISCIANI: With less than 1% of housing available in the city, the lack of “starter homes” and affordable rental options is a real concern. Housing prices continue to rise and new construction of market-rate units is outpacing development of workforce housing. Healthy communities provide affordable, mid-level and higher-end housing to address varying needs. As chair of the Planning Board, I was involved in the creation and adoption of Manchester’s updated Master Plan, and my next step is to participate in the review of zoning ordinances with an eye toward promoting the development of workforce housing. I fully support the mission of our newly formed Housing Commission, with their focus being the recognition, promotion, enhancement and development of a balanced and diverse supply of housing to meet the social, economic and physical needs of our community. Should I be elected to serve the community, I will continue to make housing a priority.
Q: With recent incidents involving guns in the news, what can you and other board members do to help curb violent crime in Manchester?
GOONAN: The Aldermanic Board’s first responsibility for the community is public safety. This will be my priority as your alderman at large. There is no other candidate running for office in the city of Manchester that has more experience in public safety. I will use my experience, and the advice of our expert public safety professionals, to support our police and new innovative programs to address crime. Manchester is one of the only urban areas in our state and we deal with “big city” problems. We need to trust our professionals and support law enforcement. We must work with the state to address issues, particularly bail reform. In the era of “Defund the Police,” I will stand up for the men and women that keep our community and streets safe.
I think the recent incidents involving guns are stemming from gang-related violence and drug-related disputes, which are extremely difficult. They are certainly not random. The Manchester Police Department actively uses strategies to curb violent crime now and will implement new tactics to “shut the faucet” in the future. The best thing the board could do is listen to the professionals and provide the tools needed to support new innovative efforts in enforcement and crime prevention.
LEVASSEUR: Give me conservative aldermen and mayor, and good things will happen.
We also need bail reform implemented immediately. It is unconscionable that Democrats’ refuse to support bail reform. A recent bill in Concord would have forced violent criminals to seek bail in front of a judge. The bill passed 11-10, with all 10 Democrats opposed to this sensible law.
Mayor Craig, who hides under her desk, hoping no one is paying attention, refuses to publicly denounce these Democrat loons. She refuses to call out the four Democrat congressmen for allowing our borders to go unsecure. Millions of illegals have crossed our borders unchecked. In the not-too-distant future, crime will increase even more than it already has. Democrat leaders MUST stand up and be held accountable by other Democrat leaders and voters in this city. We do not have time to waste. Nov. 2 can be the impetus for change.
O’NEIL: We must be fully supportive of our police department with all their efforts to reduce violent crime, and also work with organizations such as MPAL, the Manchester Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA and organizations that serve our young people with the hope of providing alternatives to crime for our young people.
TRISCIANI: Even with fewer violent crimes in the city overall, we are still experiencing gun violence and understandably, this causes discomfort.
As a citizen and candidate, I appreciate the weekly dashboard report from the Manchester Police Department. This data is crucial to provide a full picture of events in the city, versus anecdotal data which only propagates fear and misinformation.
Over the past year, the city has added new officers, and overnight shifts have increased patrols. Additional investments in foot patrols and community policing will help our police officers build relationships within the community. With the recent approval of the American Rescue Plan, we can now hire community health workers to respond to non-violent check-condition calls, which will let our officers focus on other critical areas.
As alderman at large, I would continue to support the strong partnership between our police, fire and health departments along with public works to help ensure the safety of our residents. Safety is an all-encompassing challenge for a community and we all play a role by working together to keep our community safe.