Our Ideas for Portsmouth
We’ll support candidates who are committed to policy making. By understanding the challenges we face, our Council can help us prepare for the future. For example, the long-recognized housing crisis has now arrived with a vengeance. We still lack a comprehensive response.
PROGRESS PORTSMOUTH is talking to residents and city officials who are experts in the key areas of government -- housing, smart growth, sustainability, fiscal health, education, mobility, and culture. Over the coming months we’ll formulate policy proposals for each area. As we learn more, we expect our proposals to evolve. The individual candidates we support will have their own views and ideas, but we hope to inspire them.
In 2016, 82% of residents polled wanted strong and very bold action on housing. Residents want a Council that is imaginative, proactive, and enacts policy proposals already in place. Developers who want to build projects need a clear set of requirements that balance the needs of taxpayers with the urgent need for more housing. Recognizing the constraints placed on us by state legislation, we can nevertheless take the problem by the horns
URGENT ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION
In light of the accelerating effects of climate change and the anticipated rise in sea levels, our Council must direct city staff to create an environmental master plan with public input. We already have a number of separate initiatives, but we need a comprehensive approach. Our Council can craft policies that speed up our existing plans to lower emissions and reduce the use of fossil fuel. Initiatives like Project Drawdown make clear the role individuals and communities can play.
SMART LAND USE AND PLANNING
Portsmouth is paying the price for its success. In the coming decades, as more people and businesses want to make our city their home too, the pressure on real estate will only increase. Smart land use means providing commercial interests with opportunities to build while balancing the needs of our community and carefully assessing the impact on existing services and quality of life. We can use existing methodologies to make sure taxpayers get the best value for money.
For a city of only 21,000 residents, we have an extraordinarily vibrant cultural life. But the COVID pandemic left little doubt that many of our arts organizations, performers and artists, and nonprofits depend on the generosity of residents who sustain them and are vulnerable to sudden changes in fortune. Artists and musicians have been priced out of the Portsmouth market for many years, but with imagination and leadership city policy can promote what we already have and remain in the wings should additional support be needed.
EQUITABLE PUBLIC EDUCATION
The quality of Portsmouth public schools continues to attract people to our city. It’s incumbent on our Council to protect our school system, the cost of which is by far the biggest chunk of our city’s expenditures. While we maintain the high bar set by our schools, it’s important to ensure that our system equitably offers educational services across our socioeconomically diverse population. Our Council can play a more active role in overseeing this vital area and should work to avoid reductions in force and programs.
MOBILITY AND SAFER STREETS
Our city can take a bolder approach to catering for citizens who prefer getting around on bike or foot. As the pandemic made even clearer, a growing number of families with young children are taking to the streets on foot and on bikes. While Portsmouth has a robust infrastructure for walkers in its central areas, many outlying neighborhoods are still lacking adequate provision for them. It’s incumbent on our elected leaders to refer to our already impressive master plan for non-vehicular transportation and create new policies that expand our efforts further.
GOOD GOVERNMENT AND CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
Good government demands a high standard of integrity from our elected officials. Their core task is to make new policy and adhere to the existing policy that previous councils created with substantial public input. Our councilors should listen not only to the loudest voices, but to the community as a whole and make decisions accordingly. In Portsmouth, our model of municipal government requires the council to provide oversight over the city administration, but not to interfere with its daily operations. For their part, citizens must have easier access to details of council actions. Citizens mostly lead busy lives; we need new policy and technology that allows them easy access to critical information.
Portsmouth is fortunate because businesses and employers want to move here and enjoy our city’s quality of life. However, we have to make sure we can accommodate workers through our land use and housing policies. The commercial and industrial base in our area is diverse and puts us in a good position to maintain strong economic growth. Our city’s fiscal operations have resulted in a AAA bond rating and over two dozen awards for the excellence of our financial practices. Our Council needs to play to this strength by enabling our financial staff to concentrate on what only they do best.