Editor’s note: PortsmouthNH.com sent a questionnaire to all 18 candidates running for Portsmouth City Council in the Nov. 7 election. Some of the questions were suggested by readers, while others were generated by the PortsmouthNH team. For information on polling hours, voting locations, voter registration, and more, contact the city clerk’s office.
Name: Jack Blalock
Occupation: Current mayor and co-owner of the Old Ferry Landing
Years lived in Portsmouth: Life-long resident
Public service experience: City Council (mayor 2016-2017, assistant mayor 2008-2009), 15 years on Board of Adjustment (8 years as chairman), currently serving on the PHA Development Board, volunteer for numerous school and athletic programs over 16 years.
Q1: This year, the City Council has taken up several resolutions in response to comments or actions by President Trump.
A) Do you think it’s appropriate for the City Council to vote on resolutions concerning national/international issues?
Yes, “Think globally and act locally.”
B) Explain your position on the following resolutions:
- In April, in response to President Trump’s comments and executive orders regarding immigration, the council passed a “welcoming and diversity resolution.”
Portsmouth is the “City of the Open Door.” I think it is appropriate to remind ourselves and our citizens what a welcoming and diverse city we live in.
- In June, after President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, Mayor Jack Blalock (with council approval) signed a letter supporting the goals of the accord.
Yes I did and I am personally very committed to upholding and honoring the Paris agreement. Climate change is happening, so it is very important we do what we can locally to raise awareness and be proactive. As mayor, the two blue ribbon committees have been formed, one to address sustainable practices and another to promote renewable energy.
- In October, the council passed a resolution denouncing President Trump’s recent comments criticizing professional athletes who choose to take a knee during the national anthem.
I believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression for all.
Q2: Regarding the Prescott Park Arts Festival (PPAF), please share your thoughts on the following:
- Should there be fewer PPAF events each year?
No, I like the diversity and types of entertainment the PPAF provides.
- Should there be limits on audience sizes?
Prescott Park is a city-owned public park, so we should not tell anyone that they cannot enter. If events are managed properly, this is not a problem.
- Should PPAF events end earlier?
I think the current ending time is appropriate.
- Should the volume of events be reduced?
The city’s sound expert should engineer the speakers so the noise level is contained.
- Is consumption of alcohol during PPAF events a problem that warrants stricter enforcement?
I believe the Portsmouth Police have it under control.
Q3: Regarding government transparency and accessibility:
A) Do you think the council has been transparent enough over the last two years? If not, what can be done to improve transparency?
Yes, but there is always room for continuous improvements. The change to have a public dialogue session and publishing all meetings on the city’s website are examples of the current council trying to improve transparency.
B) Do you think city government has been accessible enough for residents? If not, what can be done to make it more accessible?
Yes, but we should continue to explore other methods for interacting with city government.
Q4: Housing costs continue to rise in Portsmouth. Do you think the city should add more housing supply to ease pricing pressure? If so, what land could be used for this purpose?
The city should, through zoning changes, allow for more affordable housing. I hope the private property owners develop and create more affordable housing.
Q6: Regarding residential and workforce parking:
A) Do you think Portsmouth should develop a downtown parking program for people who work in the city? If so, how would it work?
Yes, an ongoing challenge. Two ideas: One would be to reduce parking rates for downtown employees in the city garage, and another would be to increase parking shuttles to satellite parking lots.
B) Do you think Portsmouth should develop a neighborhood parking program for people who live in the city? If so, how would it work?
Resident-only parking in some neighborhoods and reduced parking rates for residents in the parking garage.
Q6: Do you think the city should cut spending in order to lower taxes? If so, where specifically would you make cuts?
It is important to continue to do prudent fiscal review of all expenses. However, I feel we should not be cutting services and should be focusing strategies to raise other revenues to help with tax burdens.
Q7: The council is attempting to take 4.6 acres of land containing a city sewer line from Toyota of Portsmouth owner James Boyle. In March, Boyle said he was seeking about $10 million in a settlement offer, but no settlement was reached.
A) Should the council have settled with Boyle at the amount he requested?
B) Should the city proceed with efforts to take the land by eminent domain?
Q8: What is your stance on the regulation of short-term rentals, such as those offered through Airbnb?
Land use regulation should govern the use of short-term rentals.
Q9: What is your stance on allowing Keno gambling in the city?
It should be up to the voters, but I have no opinion on Keno.
Q10: Looking 10 to 20 years into the future…
A) What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Portsmouth?
Managing growth and property taxes.
B) What do you see as the city’s biggest opportunities?
Redevelopment of the McIntyre federal property, city-owned land for more recreational fields and the Prescott Park Master Plan.
C) How can the city start preparing for these challenges and opportunities now?
By engaging discussions of viable solutions with the residents. It is important to get public input to help guide the city with the decisions on these important projects.
BONUS: What are you gonna be for Halloween?
Since this is my favorite downtown event, I will be an enthusiastic spectator at the Great Halloween Parade in Portsmouth!
See responses from other candidates
(Candidate Brenna Cavanaugh declined to participate, citing time constraints. Candidate Rick Becksted did not reply to messages left by phone or email.)