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Name: Esther Kennedy
Occupation: Director of student services, Gilford School District; professor at Plymouth State University; small business owner, Esther’s Marina LLC
Years living in Portsmouth: 30
Public service experience: I have worked in my neighborhood organization Friends of the South End for several years and for the past four as co-president. I have participated in our local government on Portsmouth Listens, as a Portsmouth city councilor, and on many city committees associated with being a city councilor. At the state level, I have worked on the governor’s commission for marina fisheries, governor’s task force on autism, advisory committee to the governor on special education in the state of New Hampshire. Professionally, as a public-school teacher and administrator, a professor of graduate studies for Plymouth State University, NHTI board of education, and many professional organizations.
Q1: What can the city do to increase its supply of affordable housing?
Affordable housing should be a regional concern. We could be working with adjoining communities to support a task force to look at how to handle the need. We could amend our zoning laws to financially support or mandate affordable housing to be built by our developers. We could ask the councilors that sat the council the last four years why they did not do more about affordable housing when all the buildings were going in front of the city boards in the North End and Lafayette Road.
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?
Our city population has not changed much from the ’90s. However, our budgets have increased substantially and have placed a burden on the residents. The first area we need to look at is middle management; we have a lot of managers. The second area I would look at is legal fees. Why are we hiring private attorneys for city business when the city has attorneys? Lastly, we need to look at the budget and figure out why the budget is going up faster than inflation. This will require a meeting with department heads to see where we should cut the budget.
Q3: Do you support a citywide ban on single-use disposables such as plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam containers?
I do believe we need to change our ways as a culture. I also believe there is a way to ban items that are destroying our environment in our city. However, we need to hold forums on what our citizens want to change to support our environment. We also need to make sure we have affordable alternatives if we ban an item for our businesses.
Q4: Regarding the McIntyre redevelopment project:
A) Do you support the Redgate/Kane plan?
No, I do not. I attended most of the meetings on the McIntyre and the city did not listen to its citizens.
B) Do you think the Council should step back and consider other plans, such as the one put forth by Bill Binnie?
I think the council should step back and listen to its residents. This conversation might lead to Bill Binnie’s plan or others. The bottom line is the current city council did not listen. The community was asking for public open space, a fully functional post office, parking to be on site, and no hotels. Why is it so hard to listen to the public as a council???
Q5: What can be done to clean up and prevent PFAS contamination and other chemical contaminants on the Seacoast?
The next council will need to come up with a plan for water contamination. We are not even discussing Portsmouth drinking water, and this could be next. There is a superfund site next to the Madbury Reservoir where we, the city of Portsmouth, get our water. There is a concern from DES about migration of the superfund site into the reservoir and the city has not shared any information on this with residents.
Q6: Do you feel that development in Portsmouth — particularly of luxury condos, hotels, and other large-scale buildings — should be curtailed?
I believe the next council should take a good look at our city’s infrastructure. We need to make sure we can support the development in Portsmouth without taxing the residents! I believe at this point the cost of development has been put on the backs of the residents. Our land use boards have put developers first and now it is time to start putting the residents first!!!
Q7: What are your feelings on the idea of building a permanent covered stage in Prescott Park for festival events?
I’m not in favor of a permanent covered stage. I am in favor of an open space that can support residents of the city of Portsmouth to be along the water, enjoy the gardens, and listen to some music.
Q8: Should the city add more bike lanes and/or take other measures to improve bicycle safety and/or reduce motor-vehicle traffic downtown?
The city needs to find a new way to improve safety of bicycles. The current trend of bike lanes is not working for many of our residents.
Q9: Are there any significant projects that should be undertaken outside of the downtown area and Islington Street corridor?
There are many projects that should be looked at. Some examples are sound barriers on Interstate 95, sewage connection and the cost for the Sagamore Creek neighborhood, sidewalks on Perverly Hill Road, and traffic patterns with the new development on Lafayette, just to name a few.
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 is called planning and it seems the city did not plan well this summer.
Q11: What actions should be taken at the city level to address climate change?
The councilors need to attend the Rockingham County Planning Commission to work with other communities on the topic of climate change. Rockingham County has done a lot of work in this area and has received grants to support many of our communities. For some reason, the city has not been a real active participant. It is time for the city to participate.
Q12: Name one of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest opportunities Portsmouth will face in the next 10 to 20 years.
The biggest challenges will be management of our infrastructure, in particular its drinking water, wastewater, and storm water. The biggest opportunity will be the Celebration of Portsmouth 400!
BONUS: What are you gonna be for Halloween?
I will be dressing as an election witch.