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Name: Deaglan McEachern
Occupation: senior director — Yext
Years living in Portsmouth: 30-plus
Public service experience:
– Advisory Board SOS Recovery
– Co-founder Seacoast Business Owners
Q1: What can the city do to increase its supply of affordable housing?
For starters, we could require developers to build it. There is no requirement or financial incentive currently in place to ensure the immense growth we now see includes affordable units. I would also like to see Portsmouth push Pease to support affordable housing, potentially through a PHA-run land trust. The mission of Pease is to enable economic development. It has become clear in New Hampshire that a large limitation of economic development has been a skilled young workforce that is unable to afford the high cost of housing.
Q2: Are there specific areas in the city budget where you think spending cuts can be made? Are there specific areas where you think spending should be increased?
The majority of the budget goes to the salaries of city employees. I would look to increase our investment in technology to expand the efficiency of our current employees while placing a hold on any additional municipal headcount. The next council also needs to continue to push for HB 641 to add a hotel fee. We currently send $27 million to Concord and receive $1.2 million back from the room and meal tax. The City Council needs to form a coalition with other towns struggling under the weight of the unfunded state budget in order to pass a hotel fee.
Q3: Do you support a citywide ban on single-use disposables such as plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam containers?
I support what is currently proposed by the City Council to ban Styrofoam and plastics at municipal events. As recycling costs increase, a broader restriction will need to be considered. Currently, the town of Bow has ended their recycling program due to high cost. This is a trend that will continue as the countries that previously sorted and cleaned our recycling no longer are able to at a cost that is affordable.
Q4: Regarding the McIntyre redevelopment project:
A) Do you support the Redgate/Kane plan?
No. Even after the council voted to add language restricting a hotel on Aug. 12, that language still does not appear in the development agreement, the lease agreement, or the application. Given the recent conversion of the Hill Street apartments to a hotel, this is a critical requirement.
B) Do you think the Council should step back and consider other plans, such as the one put forth by Bill Binnie?
Yes. The council moved quickly to choose a developer, then held public input sessions. This was done to meet the demands of the GSA’s timeline. That timeline changed and has now lengthened again. It would be a good opportunity to restart the conversation, provided the city cannot reach a lease agreement which absolves us from our commitment to the developer. We could use what we learned from the public input sessions to vastly streamline the process and create a project that works for all of us.
Q5: What can be done to clean up and prevent PFAS contamination and other chemical contaminants on the Seacoast?
We should start by agreeing to remediate the PFAS found in Berry’s Brook required by House Bill 494. We have inferred through the city attorney that compliance with this bill is the preferred course of action. We must follow through in order to protect our waterways.
Q6: Do you feel that development in Portsmouth — particularly of luxury condos, hotels, and other large-scale buildings — should be curtailed?
The development has swung too far toward luxury condos with the promise that it will lower the tax bill and decrease housing cost. It has not. We can’t maintain the current pace until we have a plan in place to require new development to require more affordable housing.
Q7: What are your feelings on the idea of building a permanent covered stage in Prescott Park for festival events?
I support the Prescott Park Arts Festival, and support a covered stage, either permanent or temporary, to improve the ability of providing a safe show. With the 400th anniversary coming up, improving the stage and immediate area should be a focal point of the next council.
Q8: Should the city add more bike lanes and/or take other measures to improve bicycle safety and/or reduce motor-vehicle traffic downtown?
We need to improve the current design. I have yet to be convinced that the posts — and not simply dedicated lanes — have added safety either to the cyclists or the cars. I am excited about the possibility of using parking revenue to invest in micro-transit alternatives. It’s clear that both seniors and millennials want to be able to do more without a car. A micro-transit service could connect Portsmouth residents to each other as well as to the vibrancy of downtown. At the same time, this could reduce the demand on parking.
Q9: Are there any significant projects that should be undertaken outside of the downtown area and Islington Street corridor?
There are currently a lot of projects underway. I would like to see a greater emphasis on neighborhood projects that residents outside of the downtown are requesting. While canvasing, I heard a great idea to improve Panaway Manor. When I asked why she hadn’t brought it to the council, she stated a lack of time. We need more proactive listening, not just around elections. To help that problem, I would propose holding two council meetings in each of the five wards every year.
Q10: At times this summer, there were road closures on Islington Street, Woodbury Avenue (by the traffic circle), Maplewood Avenue, and other roads all at once. Is there a way to reduce the heavy concentration of road work that creates detours and traffic congestion in the summer?
It shouldn’t take more than a year to build a bridge. The next council needs to be proactively pushing the state to set realistic timelines and then hold them accountable. When it comes to our planning, I would like to see the council take a forward-looking approach to budgeting that proactively solves construction problems. As someone that takes pride in working on my own home, I know problems are a lot less costly and annoying to my spouse when I tackle them before I “need” to.
Q11: What actions should be taken at the city level to address climate change?
We could take a cue from 16-year-old Greta Thunberg and plant more trees. More specifically, we should encourage more green space for its benefit to our community and businesses as well as its carbon sequestration ability.
Q12: Name one of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest opportunities Portsmouth will face in the next 10 to 20 years.
One of our biggest challenges is a big reason I’m running. We will face huge change in the coming decades. An increase in the ability of telecommuting and remote work is coming and will increase the strain on our community as Boston moves north. As a fourth-generation Portsmouth resident, I understand our history. As someone who works in the technology sector and has lived in large cities, I understand the future and the immense change that is coming. I am running to manage this growth so our community grows together, not apart.
BONUS: What are you gonna be for Halloween?
The Boss (my 3-year-old daughter) hasn’t given me my marching orders yet. Based on how much she loved “Beauty and the Beast” at Prescott Park, I could well be a beast, or a clock.