John Tabor

Candidate Bio


I am one of four generations of Tabors in public service. Our family believes government can be a force for good in people's lives. Prior to serving as a city councilor, my bio included: 

- Newspaper publisher and President of Seacoast Media Group from 1997 to 2018. Our team expanded the business from a $12.5mm to a $29 million company with 200 employees.

- Co-chair of Portsmouth Listens for 20 years. Jim Noucas and I were given the Mayor's Award for the 2005 public dialogue process that shaped the city's Master Plan using small group "study circles" of 271 residents.

- Board chair of the Prescott Park Arts Festival, past Chamber president, United Way Campaign Chairman, and past board chair of St. John's Church among others. As a councilor, I chaired the Energy Advisory Committee that launched Portsmouth Community Power, as well as the audit committee and ethics committee. I have been council liaison to Pease and the new police station project. I also serve on the Legislative Affairs and Governance Committee, and previously on Mcintyre Subcommitee.

Betsy and I are 36-year residents. Our daughter Laura and son Max attended Portsmouth schools. We were active parents in PTO, and I coached youth lacrosse. I graduated from Yale in 1977. You can occasionally catch me at open mics at the Book and Bar or Press Room, playing guitar and singing blues and country music.
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Why I'm Running

In my second term, the energy committee I chaired launched Portsmouth Community Power. It lowered residents' electric rates - some months as much as $30 - and created more green options. It's an example of city government doing something people can't do individually, and everybody wins.I've also led the council to set budget guidelines for the city manager so the tax rate does not go up faster than residents' incomes.

In my third term, I want to work on our toughest issue - affordable housing. I want more of the people who keep our city going to be able to live here. While none of us can cancel the economic forces that are making rents and house prices go up, we can create meaningful amounts of workforce housing on city property, and through partnerships and zoning changes.

Perhaps the best motivator to win a third term is what I learn from residents going door to door each election. I'm reminded who I work for and how much there is to do. Some people I've met:

  • Helaine and her son who live in Pannaway Manor. She is a renter who knows her landlord is likely to sell her 1,000 square foot house any day as home prices skyrocket.. "Where can my son and I afford to go when that happens?" she asked.

  • Maria, a widow on Cabot Street who is retired on Social Security who struggles to hang on to her house of 30 years  - Erica a Portsmouth mother on Dunlin Street wants our schools fully funded and safe as her son catches up after COVID at New Franklin Elementary.

  • Pam and Doug, who live on Dennett street on low ground on the edge of the North Mill Pond. Each storm brings water closer to their home. They need action on climate and want flood control on the North MIll Pond to counter sea level rise. 

I want to continue to work for them. With two terms of experience and proven leadership abilities chairing multiple committees, I know I can make a difference. 
Here's a song about campaigning door to door...

Also, has all my positions and more info.

Councilor John Tabor

City of Portsmouth

Cell: (603) 557-6025

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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?
"Renters" are people in many stages of life and the city needs a vision for each stage. People in their 20s just starting out want to work here and current market rents of $2,500 a month don't square with starting salaries of $50-85,000 a year. We need to envision solutions like micro housing, or existing apartments close to downtown with a loop shuttle, or conversions of downtown upstairs offices into living space for our workforce. The recent approval of Sol Restaurant housing unburdened by parking requirements is a step down this road.  

As for young families, they need 2-3 bedroom apartments. We should look at our Gateway zoning and our overhang of "office industrial" zoning for additional housing stock for this age group. Also, we should be requiring developers who want variances but don't want to provide workforce housing to pay into a housing trust fund to top off what an eligible family can pay (as suggested by Councilor Moreau).

And then there are seniors who want to downsize and need to be able to turn their single family house into a duplex or add an ADU to have rental income. We should facilitate these. 

The biggest challenge renters tell me they face is saving up to buy a home while paying Portsmouth's high rents. A young couple that can afford to pay $4,000 a month wants to rent for $2,000 and save for a downpayment, but that hope for the future is being eaten away. So we need to create a series of visions for different stages of life and then figure out how to achieve those visions. Also, I am working with the city's Housing Navigator and Portsmouth Listens on a citywide housing dialogue so those who need rental housing can talk to those who oppose more density. We need to create a common understanding of our city's housing needs to move forward together.

Interestingly, in the 2017 election, according to the voter data, 17% of the vote came from renters (voters with unit numbers in their address). That rose to 20% in 2021, with 523 new rental voters in a turnout of roughly 6,000. The prior council's negative view of apartments, including flyers of West End Yards, as well as progressive activism motivated these voters, I believe. The result was a much younger council including renters and recent renters.

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?
We are already pro-actively addressing sea level rise: the city will spend $8 million to raise the low-lying parts of Prescott Park and move the Shaw warehouse. Strawbery Banke is working on its own resilience plan. City pump stations and streets like Mechanic and Pickering are already threatened.

We need to move steadily and clearly toward a reduced carbon footprint in actions outlined by the current draft Climate Action Plan while also budgeting for resilience. A major area of focus will be renewably generated electricity and electrification of homes and transportation.  Portsmouth Community Power's "next phase" will be the use of reserves created by the program for solar and other renewable energy installations which will have multiple benefits to rate payers. I would favor a targets for carbon reduction such as Hanover and other towns have, and use of metrics throughout the climate action plan.

We also have to bring our community along in this effort by showing our residents what actions they can take and how many tons of carbon can be shed by just one household's actions. Our Energy Advisory Committee is discussing how to encourage residents to take their rate savings from Community Power and "opt up" to 100% renewable energy. Door stickers? Yard signs? What positive reinforcement can we create at the neighborhood level?

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?
In the debate over removing Middle Street bike lanes, I proposed a study committee to explore a raised bike lane on the outbound side. I think it's a viable option as part of the upcoming Middle Street repaving. My motion was voted down by Mayor Becksted and councilors Kennedy, Huda, Trace and Whelan. Middle Street was designed to be the key connector of the bicycle pedestrian master plan but the first execution had flaws. We should look at a long term solution that works for all users.

We should continue the Complete Streets policy that adds bike lanes along the Master-Planned bike network, and we need to connect outer neighborhoods such as Maple Haven, because they are cut off from the network. I'm excited that a multi-use path is in the Capital Improvement Plan for Route 1 to connect these neighborhoods.

Bicycle and pedestrian improvements generally qualify for federal funds for up to 80% for air quality mitigation, so these improvements often come at low cost to the taxpayer.

The key is the Pedestrian Bike Master Plan which is already approved policy.

The traffic calming measures on Woodbury, Dennett Street, Aldrich Street, Middle Road, and the narrowing of Pleasant Street in the South End are all recent examples of effective traffic calming measures coming from the Parking, Traffic and Safety Committee. The data on speed reduction on Woodbury is impressive. I favor continued support for the test-measure-mplement approach PTS is using.