Concord mayoral candidates offer similar opinions during debate: video

CONCORD, NH – When Concord voters head to the polls on November 2, they will have to decide whether to give its outgoing mayor an unprecedented eighth term or give a challenger, whose main reason for running is to fight against apathy, the chance to serve.

Outgoing Mayor Jim Bouley took on challenger Taylor Hall in an hour-long debate sponsored by Patch, Concord TV and WKXL and recorded Thursday at Concord TV studios.

Hall, a newcomer admitted to the city, said he made the decision to run two years ago after learning that the mayor and his unsuccessful challenger had spent just $ 5, the filing fee, during their campaigns.

“My wife and I both noticed how apathetic and upsetting it had been for us,” he said. “One thing that drew us to each other was our interest in local politics and our belonging to our community and improving our community. It was so overwhelming to see this level of apathy.”

Bouley said it was “an honor and a privilege” to serve and that he and the city council had accomplished a lot – and people were taking notice. Real estate publications have highlighted the city’s vibrant market while projects such as the Sewalls Falls Bridge and Main Street renovations have been promoted by construction magazines and others, such as advocacy organizations. people with disabilities.

“The list goes on and on,” he said. “We have had tremendous success over the past few years and I have been very fortunate to be a part of it. “

Drug addiction, homelessness, housing, economic development, political reforms and other issues were discussed, with the two candidates agreeing on most of the issues facing the city.

Both candidates, for example, said more should be done to help those in need, with Bouley saying there should be a contact person to help homeless people with mental health or transportation issues.

“We are all but a paycheck, potentially, away from the homeless,” he said.

Hall agreed and said more should be done in the long term to help those in need. But he found it disturbing that some camps had been dismantled, including one near Manchester Street, the former Concord Drive-In property, which should be upgraded.

“Does this really solve the problem? He asked. “It just shifts the problem. It doesn’t solve it. I look at it like that and scratch my head.”

Bouley countered that calls from private landlords should be answers and campers should be removed.

Both candidates have said they would like to continue to keep control of the budget as well as property tax increases while working to increase economic development. Bouley said one of the biggest issues facing the city was the reduction in the state’s pension costs to the city. Hall said he would like to see more money requested from the state to support the city, due to all the services used by the state. He also said the city should be more aggressive with the parking scofflaws who owe around $ 750,000 in fees. Neither candidate supported the funding or dismantling of the police. While there was a cost, Bouley said he supported body cameras for officers while Hall was against it – one of the few issues they disagreed on.

Hall was one of only two Bouley challengers who was not arrested, charged or convicted of a felony, but he was cited in 2018 for breaking hands-free law in New Hampshire. Asked about all fatalities and accidents due to distracted driving, he said using his cell phone while driving was a mistake. The charge was then stayed without result, meaning it was dropped.

Bouley was asked about transparency issues when it came to his lobbying firm, Dennehy & Bouley, and why he didn’t explain why he had recused himself from meetings. He said he should but denied any conflict of interest with any of his lobbying clients during his tenure as mayor and also pointed to the creation of an ethics committee which happened during his tenure. . In April, the city made changes to the committee, adding term limits for its members. It has not been dissolved.

Hall, however, said some voters worried about whether Bouley was going to fight “hard enough, with the state, for the town of Concord” and whether his lobbying was harming the town. Bouley countered that sometimes his work helped the city, pointing to the Legislative Assembly’s decision to build a new mental hospital in Concord, on Clinton Street. His meetings, he said, led to the decision to move the new hospital to a wing of the existing hospital, set back from the street.

Both agreed housing was one of the most difficult issues the city faced with Hall, a new owner of a multi-family home, saying he was inclined to turn part of it into an Airbnb instead of a apartment. He then changed his mind. Zoning issues and lack of access also made buying a home more difficult. Bouley said that without a place to live, economic development was hampered. He pointed out that the cost of land and competition for available units as well as labor such as plumbers and cabinet makers were scarce. At the same time, interest rates were still low. Bouley also highlighted zoning – including increased density, especially with buildings and land near city services like water and sewers. The city was also considering lowering fees, he said.

Regarding political reforms, Bouley said the city was run well with a strong city manager and would not want to move to a strong mayor system. He laughed at the description of the city having a “weak mayor”. Bouley said, looking south, Concord didn’t want to become like Manchester and Nashua, who had become very partisan. Hall, he was “a little confused” as to how the system worked since the mayor was elected to a weak seat, but during the debate he took a lot of credit for getting things done. He however agreed with a strong municipal management system and stressed the need to maintain non-partisan municipal elections. Both agreed to pay the mayor and city councilors a small stipend instead of a salary. In addition, Bouley and Hall agreed that Concord City Council should not have control over the budget of SAU 8 School District. As to whether the Merrimack Valley School District should be integrated into the Concord School District, what to do with it? what the city should get involved with, Hall said he didn’t know enough about the issue while Bouley said the city was in a unique situation, having two school districts, which posed a lot of problems .

“I never understood why we have (two) school administration units,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”

The two candidates also supported the construction of a new pavilion as well as the maintenance of the Beaver Meadow golf course, which is owned by the city. Hall said residents of the city are not using everything they pay for. Bouley said parks and recreation are one of the city’s assets that attracts everyone. The course, he said, was an asset, not just a course. The two also said the city may need to consider reducing the course to nine holes and selling land for development to offset the $ 6.3 million cost for a new building and its maintenance. Hall called it a “great idea”, while Bouley said the land had been acquired by land and water conservation funds – so a new acquisition is expected to be launched elsewhere, despite all other land already reserved. to conservation.

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