It’s that time for me. I have decided not to run for another term on the city council.
When I was elected six years ago, I had anticipated only serving two terms.
So before I do a post mortem of my time on the city council, it is important for me to tell you that I have been humbled by the trust you have placed in me and that it has been a privilege to represent you.
What follows are some of my thoughts on the city council and the city.
There have been and are many worthwhile projects that can be easily justified to spend money on, until it is remembered whose money is being spent. My campaign slogan, that I will never forget that it is your money I am spending, has guided me in my votes. It has reminded me to prioritize how I spent your money for city wide services and projects.
Even before I was elected to the city council I was a strong proponent of the State’s Right to Know Law and your right to be informed on what our city is doing in your name. Prior to my tenure on the council I filed a number of right to know requests. I believed our city was not always providing access to information that the public had a right to and that should be in the public domain.
I believe the city is doing a better job of informing the public now, but there is still much that can and should be done. To name a couple; the council can do a better job of informing and soliciting comments on city contracts with our employees. We can do a better job of informing you of the positions the city takes on state legislative matters.
Over the years the city council has made their meetings more efficient. They don’t last to eleven o’clock or longer and we rarely meet more than once a month - except when we are discussing the budget. But I believe this efficiency has come at a price and that price is having the time to explain and discuss fully the matters before us. The recent discussion the council had regarding the Employment Security Project should be the norm not the exception.
I have strongly supported city council rules and city ordinances that address conflicts of interest by city councilors and those appointed to city boards and commissions. While there are still a number of circumstances where I feel our conflict of interest rules are not being adhered to, I believe the city council is much more aware of and is more proactive in taking action to avoid conflicts, than when I was first elected.
For those of you who have read my updates and blogs, you know my concerns regarding tax increment finance (tif) districts and RSA-79E (where the new assessed taxes on a project can be deferred for a number of years). I have tried to be clear on my position on both of these development tools.
I understand the value they can bring to a community to spur economic development. I also understand that they can delay much needed new tax revenue to a community, for a significant period of time. Economic development and tax base expansion should not only benefit the developer. A portion of the new assessed value should be available to pay for city, school and county services. We all have a responsibility to contribute to the public good. Those in special tax districts shouldn’t be getting a pass from funding services that benefit everyone in the community.
And some more on taxes. In order to maintain the services the city provides and that many in the community would like to see continued or expanded, we need to expand the tax base. Of course that is easier said than done and how you expand the tax base is the most important component of generating more revenue.
It is quite possible that while expanding the tax base the city’s costs can increase at an even greater rate. If most development is residential and new students come into the school systems, the new taxes will not cover the added costs (there are some nuances to this relationship).
In Penacook even if there isn’t additional residential development (and there is) we see more of the costs being shifted to homeowners because the commercial portion of the tax base continues to shrink.
When looking at economic development it is important to look at more than just the amount of new taxes. It is important to look at new revenue in relation to the added costs of the new development for the city and schools caused by development.
I have voiced my concerns over how we provide housing that we can all afford. Not just low or subsidized, but affordable housing. I believe affordable housing has two components. Housing that is available and affordable to the wide range of income levels in our city. And housing that the community is able to afford, to pay for citywide and school services for those who live here.
The core obligation of city government is to provide for your safety. Our city is fortunate that we have excellent safety services. To ensure that we can continue to provide the high level of police and fire services, it is important that the city council will move forward to ensure that those who protect us will continue to have the tools and resources to do so.
Over the years you have told me (on numerous occasions) that you are frustrated with our city’s administration. Once again I will tell you it is not the administration you should be frustrated with, it is the city council. It is the job of the city council to set policy and the job of the city manager to follow through. Even with our city manager form of government and the day to day operations of the city removed from the city council’s responsibilities, it is the city council that sets the agenda.
As a city councilor I have tried my best to listen to you. I have encouraged you to speak up. All too often I have heard your frustration that your voice doesn’t matter. But all too often I (and the city council) haven’t heard from you. The recent vote to not go forward with the Employment Security Project is because your voices were heard.
When only 15% of the city’s eligible voters turn out for a municipal election and it is rare for an incumbent to lose, you are correct, your voice isn’t being heard. But it isn’t being heard because many in our city haven’t spoken up.
So where does this leave me and what if any thoughts do I have for the future?
Our city is at an important crossroads. We offer many positive advantages compared to many of the communities surrounding us. How we use these advantages and how we ensure that we don’t lose these positive assets becomes more and more important as we look to the future.
Do we listen to those who want to rebrand Concord, to change who we are, to forget where we came from. Or do we remember and build on who we are.
Do we destroy our history and the character of our community on the (in my opinion) false premise that this is what people want today. Or do we build on our history and the character of our community - traits that have made us successful for over 250 years.
Let’s not forget who we are. Let’s not forget where we came from and how we got here. Let’s build on the strong foundation that has been here even before we got here and let’s leave an even stronger foundation for those that haven’t yet gotten here.
Cathy and I aren’t going anywhere. Well we might move downtown or to an old peoples place in the future. But we are staying in Concord. I moved to New Hampshire in 1973 and with the exception of a few short years have lived in Concord. It really is a great place. And with you making your voices heard it can be and will be even better in the future.
And speaking of Cathy. Often people are asked who made the biggest impression in your life or if you could meet one person and have dinner with them who would you pick. Well these questions are easy for me, it is my wife Cathy. She has guided and inspired me for all of the 40 years we have shared
I plan to keep using my voice. I plan to continue to follow the activities of our city and I plan to continue to express my opinions. My hope is that you will too.
And finally, let me once again thank you - Allan
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