Andrea Pickett

Candidate Bio

My name is Andrea Pickett, and I'm currently running for a seat on Portsmouth's City Council. My background in public service stems from a lived understanding of the need for public services. Seven years ago, I moved to Portsmouth as a single mother and settled into the Portsmouth Housing Authority, which was the foundation to not only find my own stability but also become an advocate for others who are working toward the same. Being at the lower end of the financial spectrum, I felt powerless. The policies that governed institutions I engaged with were often written in ways blind to the limitations faced by those who used them.

This sense of powerlessness drove my efforts to engage in leadership and policy design. In the past decade, I have sat on educational boards at Great Bay Community College and Making Community and Classroom Connections (MC3), Founded United Against Hate on the Seacoast, which developed into our "Hate is UnWelcome Here" sticker campaign, Co-Founded a community garden, Co-Facilitated a course called Bridges out of Poverty, Consulted for and Mentored through Project Success to guide first-time college students through the college experience, and gave a TEDx Portsmouth Talk regarding using voices of experience as expert advisors when designing policy. 
Candidate website
Seacoastonline profile
Candidate TEDx Talk

Why I'm Running

I have a great deal of respect for the office of the City Council. I've taken part through observation, by submitting comments, and by raising awareness for public issues the council was addressing. Although the thought of running had occurred to me, I considered it a multi-year goal. However, after I gave my TEDx talk, several community members sought me out and encouraged me to run now. Their enthusiasm that I could represent a popular voice made me realize that waiting for an arbitrary date in the future was a restraint I was putting on myself instead of a limit that I was bound to. 

If elected, I hope to address affordable housing, transportation, education, and sustainability issues. These issues are fundamental to equity and also benefit the community as a whole. By creating streamlined access to the infrastructure within the city, Portsmouth will continue to meet the needs of the people who come here to live, work, or enjoy its historic charm. As a council member, I would put a high premium on transparency within the council so that the processes by which decisions were made could be understood. I would make public input as central of a driving force as it is within my power to do. As a citizen, I know that many parts of government don't feel accessible to the public, whether that is because the design may not be intuitive or because it does not lend to public interaction.

In my career and my advocacy, I have and will continue to make it a priority to remove these barriers. Finally, I would like to see a mechanism to streamline social services within our city. This could be modeled as a social worker employed within the library or promoting a coordinated entry system that would guide residents to learn about all available resources. Our city has a wealth of non-profit organizations, but people unfamiliar with the system don't know they exist or how they can access them. We must change that.

I look forward to talking to residents over the next several weeks before the election and hearing directly what issues are most important for them. If anyone has specific questions, my campaign email address is:

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Candidate Links

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Position On Issues

A comprehensive housing market study for the Portsmouth Housing Authority identified unmet demand for more than 3,000 additional housing units in our city, mostly for rental units. The study also pointed out that almost 50% of Portsmouth residents live in rented homes. Renters effectively pay a share of the owner’s property taxes. But while property owners, especially those in desirable parts of the city, have benefitted from astonishing and unprecedented increases in their home equity, renters — through no fault of their own — have not shared in the wealth creation. Just the opposite, in fact: as rents and the cost of living rise steadily, renters are more cost-burdened every year. You aspire to represent this huge constituency.

Question #1: How should the city address the specific needs of renters?
Not only do I want to represent this constituency, I am a renter. So I am part of it. The City’s approach to supporting renters should be three-pronged - Build more affordable housing, connect renters to the local resources that can help stabilize their finances in a crisis and work to make pathways for increased earning potential. Affordable housing is defined as housing that only creates a cost burden of 30% on the renter. While many developers claim to generate affordable housing, often that definition is not adhered to, and the units are rented at only slightly below what the market will bear.

The Housing Authority is a property management and development organization Federally mandated to provide permanently affordable housing that qualifies based on the 30% of income to cost ratio model. Partnering with the housing authority is the most direct path to creating affordable housing in Portsmouth. While many renters are deemed too high-earning to qualify for State and Federal benefits, they struggle to make ends meet, leading to failure to pay their bills, such as rent. There are resources in the community, like our Community Action Program, which can offset some fuel and electric costs for qualifying individuals. The income limits for these local programs are much higher than the Federal ones, but many residents don’t know about them. I believe a social worker based at the library could be the catalyst for getting information into the hands of people who need it. Regarding earning potential, there are pathways to affordable education for low to moderate earners. In conjunction with supporting skills training, every opportunity to enable employers to raise wages should be examined, especially in industries like childcare facilities. 

The next generations will either benefit or suffer from the policies we enact today regarding climate change, sustainable practices, and the move away from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Question #2: Do you accept that urgent measures are required, and if so, how aggressive should the city be in addressing the crisis?
I do accept that urgent measures are needed. Sometimes, change is uncomfortable and requires, at least for the short term, a period of adjustment and sacrifice. However, in the bigger picture, climate change that’s left unchecked will lead to systems failure. We face extreme weather events, loss of flora and fauna due to extinction, and food insecurity. I am not a climate change scientist, but we should listen to their recommendations. We should address both ends of this problem. We need to take measures to protect ourselves from the effects of climate change, and we should address the anthropogenic causes of climate change. Some examples of managing the changes we are already experiencing are creating a more localized food supply chain, building in higher elevations, and building sea walls to protect coastal communities. To lessen the human activities that contribute to climate change, we can make moves to support infrastructure like electric vehicles, and solar and wind farms, and support local makers who create quality products designed to last.

Records show that the top complaint from Portsmouth neighborhoods for decades has been drivers speeding on their streets. The city has begun implementing traffic calming measures. Changes to infrastructure are the single most effective way to address the issue. Drivers often object at first, but the measures have proven effective. At the same time, the city is doing more to accommodate residents who would rather walk or bike.

Question #3: What kinds of initiatives would you support that further calm traffic and make more of Portsmouth safer for residents on foot or bike?
Portsmouth needs to initiate a public transportation charette to discuss issues such as increasing public transportation routes and frequency and increasing ridership, which would be a significant step in the right direction. Everyone acknowledges a problem with the supply of public transportation, but no one seems to know how to address it. We need to identify the right players and invite them to the table to create a solution. It would benefit the community by increasing access to goods and services, decreasing emissions, and reducing traffic concentration. I’m also excited about the conversation around adding more green space to our city design. Green space, by definition, is not a road. It’s a place where people can interact with and enjoy nature, which would increase pedestrian use and decrease traffic.