Victoria Sullivan: Running for mayor has been 'absolutely life-changing'

Mayoral candidate Victoria Sullivan chats while walking around downtown Manchester.

I BELIEVE IN Manchester. This is my home. My husband and I are raising our children in this city. I am running for mayor because our children deserve the same safe parks and neighborhoods that earlier generations played in. They desperately need schools that challenge them to achieve and give them the tools they need to succeed. And they should be able to look forward to the kind of economic opportunities that will allow them to start their careers and raise their own families right here in Manchester some day.

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As we head to the polls on Tuesday, Manchester residents need to ask ourselves, “Is Manchester better off today than it was two years ago? Are our neighborhoods safer? Have our schools improved? Is our municipal government more fiscally responsible? Is the business climate more welcoming for entrepreneurs and small business owners?”

The answer to each of those questions is — unfortunately — a resounding no.

Manchester is at a crossroads. Our community is less safe. Violent crime, homicides and opioid deaths are all increasing. The homeless population has taken over our downtown and some of the parks where our children used to be free to play.

Our education system is still not making the grade. Third-grade reading scores, a measure of educational achievement, have declined.

City Hall wastes more of our money and without the tax cap being respected, taxes continue to rise.

Businesses around the city are losing customers as vagrants set up makeshift camps on the sidewalks and pedestrian traffic dries up.

All of this is unacceptable. We can — and must — do better. The image of a struggling city on the decline cannot become Manchester’s new normal.

I believe in our city. I believe in her people. I am confident we can make Manchester shine again. But we must admit that we have problems that need to be fixed, face our challenges head on, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

That’s what I’ve done throughout my career in public service. As a former New Hampshire state representative and assistant majority leader, I served two terms on the House Education Committee. We passed crucial legislation to give parents more control over their kids’ education and implemented a groundbreaking play-based kindergarten. I also served as Manchester selectman for Ward 9 and on the Manchester Heritage Commission.

My service to our community didn’t begin with elected office, though. I launched a volunteer-run drama club at my children’s elementary school, coached and volunteered for South Soccer, South Little League and Highland Goffe’s Falls Basketball. I served as the PTA president for my children’s elementary school and on the New Hampshire PTA executive board. I have spent countless hours volunteering for Manchester schools as a teacher’s helper and as a substitute teacher at a charter school.

Throughout my public service, I’ve come to understand that everything — safety, schools, community and the economy — starts with our neighbors helping neighbors. That’s why my vision for Manchester begins with neighborhoods.

We must reduce crime by building better relationships between our law enforcement and our neighborhoods, by implementing community-policing policies and by adequately enforcing vagrancy laws.

We can fix the opioid crisis by balancing treatment with enforcement and making sure Manchester isn’t simply a dumping ground for other communities’ addicts.

We need to improve our schools by placing the focus on teachers, parents, and students, demanding excellence, and ensuring that our education dollars end up in the classroom.

We can create more economic opportunity by reducing taxes, regulation and red tape and giving business owners control over their storefronts and sidewalks.

We must restore pride in Manchester. We need to come together to reclaim our communities. We need to take back our sidewalks. We need to clean up our parks.

Government has a role in this, of course, and under my leadership as your mayor, we will implement an aggressive campaign of community relations. But I won’t be able to do it without you.

I ask for your vote on Tuesday, but that is only the first step in what will be a long road ahead of us. The hard work starts after Election Day. Together, we can forge a Manchester whose best days lie ahead. Together, we can make Manchester shine once more.

Monday, February 17, 2020
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Victoria Sullivan is a candidate for mayor in Manchester and a former state representative and assistant majority leader in the New Hampshire House.