“To begin, I’d like to thank Mayor Craig for recognizing the importance of deterring crime by ‘environmental design,’ reconnecting police to our neighborhoods and adding park rangers as a way of improving the safety and cleanliness of our city’s parks and trails. All those were features of my plan to Reduce Crime and Protect Neighborhoods, which was released on July 1st.
“Next, I agree with the concerns raised by aldermen Sapienza, Terrio and Levasseur. Why the ‘rush’ to adopt these massive spending proposals?
“During the discussion, it was disclosed that the city had until 2024 to allocate this money. It was also revealed by Alderman Long that the final rules on how the money may be spent won’t be issued until August 31st.
“While I agree with Mayor Craig that this is a matter for the whole board to address, I disagree that means the normal committee process has to be short-circuited. The committee process exists to provide elected officials and citizens the time and opportunity to ask their questions, air their concerns and come to an informed decision. Even Mayor Craig, when asked by Alderman Terrio, didn’t know what the cost of the new employees in the plan were, responding ‘I haven’t added it up.’
“Demanding a vote on $43 million in spending just five short days after releasing the information and the same day the presentation was made is unreasonable, unfair and irresponsible. There is not only ample time for the normal process to play out, there is also plenty of time to schedule a public hearing on the proposals, which state law would require but for the COVID exemptions contained in the governor’s executive orders.
“There are many questions about the addition of 13 new health workers that were asked and deserve better answers. Why one for each ward? Who will determine what calls they go on? What happens if they’re dispatched to a dangerous situation?
“Mayor Craig’s recommendations extend several grant funded positions before we even know whether or not they should be extended. Again, we have until 2024 to commit the funds. What’s the hurry?
“Three million dollars are being poured into the Affordable Housing Trust. This is on top of $4.7 million just announced a couple of weeks ago, to say nothing of the tens of millions of dollars Governor Sununu outlined in his recent letter to Mayor Craig in which he totaled the funds sent to Manchester to combat homelessness. Her admissions that she didn’t know how much money was in the trust or how often it had been used raised concerns. Why would she recommend so much funding if she was unaware of what was already there or had already been done?
“For the lip service paid to ‘following the data’ and ‘measuring results,’ there has been no assessment of whether or not these proposals are throwing good money after bad. There was also no presentation of what ‘results’ would be measured to determine whether or not this spending was reaching a desired outcome. For that matter, no desired outcome was identified, except to say that certain people could get grants to fix up their buildings as long as they kept the rents ‘affordable.’
“Is it the place of government to pay for renovations to convenience stores and subsidize their inventory? If the prior program was so successful, why didn’t the stores continue to offer the ‘healthy foods’ after the program ended? These are the discussions that should be had before taxpayer money is used for these purposes.
“I do support the funding for the voluntary Newborn Home Visit Program, but would like to know why it’s only being done for patients at the Elliot Hospital and not Catholic Medical Center. This is the kind of thing that could be discussed in committee.
“The proposal to give Southern New Hampshire University $3 million dollars to provide scholarships to resident city high school graduates sounds good, but is actually troubling. The school district is going to get nearly $60 million more in COVID relief funds. Why is this money coming from the city’s allocation instead of the district’s? Why SNHU? Why not UNH-Manchester or, as Alderman Levasseur suggested, Manchester Community College? For that matter, why not St. Anselm, Granite State College or any other school a Manchester student might attend?
“I believe this is a ‘no-bid’ contract that violates the city’s procurement code and builds a direct pipeline of students to the benefit of SNHU, whose representative admitted they will help the students apply for federal Pell Grants and other grants that they will collect in addition to whatever is needed from these funds for these students’ tuition payments.
“I’m glad to see there’s at least some infrastructure work being done with this money. Five million dollars is a start on what needs to be done with water/sewer/drainage projects but, candidly, the whole $43 million could have been spent on it. Since there’s an emphasis on improving outdoor spaces, I wonder whether or not this money could have been used to address the many repair, maintenance, and renovation needs of our city’s parks and trails, too. Had it gone to committee, we might have discovered that answer.
“This is one time money and it’s largely either going to fill gaps in the operating budget, extend grant funded operations or create new programs that will, in all likelihood, be absorbed into the operating budget when the funding runs out because, as with every government program, they’ll become ‘indispensable.’
“This one time money presents us with a big opportunity. We should take our time and make sure we get it right. Rather than bypass the normal process and rush it through because ‘the experts’ have spoken and some people gave their input in an online survey, it should follow the normal process and the public should be given an opportunity both at committee and before the board to voice its opinions.
“Joyce made the wrong choice by pressuring the aldermen to ram this through.”