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: Ned Raynolds
Occupation: Sales, Connected LED Lighting Systems & Services, Public Sector and Higher Education, Philips North America
Years lived in Portsmouth: 16
Public service experience:
• Served on Portsmouth City Council 2004-2008
• My civic advocacy in Portsmouth (2001-2004) led to our new library being designed and built to achieve USGBC LEED certification, the first such municipally-owned building in New Hampshire.
• Undergraduate degree (BS) in government, U.S. Coast Guard Academy
• Masters degree in public policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
• 21-year active duty & reserve career, U.S. Coast Guard
• Policy & program analyst for Lawrence Berkeley National Lab on U.S. EPA Energy Star program 1996-1999
• Public policy advocate (energy/environment/climate) for nonprofits Alliance to Save Energy, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Clean Air-Cool Planet, Union of Concerned Scientists 1999-2009
• Served on Alexandria, VA Environmental Policy Commission 1997-2000
• Member, Portsmouth Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan Advisory Committee
• Coached Seacoast Lacrosse, Portsmouth Rec. and PCSC Soccer
• Board Member, Seacoast Mental Health Center and Seacoast Area Bicycle Riders
• Member, NHPR Community Advisory Board
• Volunteer, Share Our Strength Portsmouth and PHS Celebration Graduation
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, especially when we have a president who so brazenly flouts the law, international treaties, precedent, and democratic and American values on a daily basis.
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.”
Immigration and diversity, welcoming and equal treatment of all individuals without prejudice or discrimination based on their race, national origin, etc., are founding principles of this country enshrined in the Constitution and a large body of federal and state law. It’s important for a community like Portsmouth to let it be known that Trump and his administration’s views and policies are not supported here.
- 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.
Human-induced global warming and resulting climate change is a real phenomenon and a grave threat to humanity, according to the vast majority of scientists (as represented by the membership of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, etc.). The Paris Climate Accord was negotiated and adopted with extraordinary U.S. leadership, after more than two decades of such leadership through numerous other worldwide Conferences of the Parties (i.e. COP-XX, such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997). The Paris Climate Accord doesn’t bind the U.S. to do anything that we don’t want to do as a nation; it’s an aspirational agreement among almost every nation on earth to evolve our economies toward renewable energy and other technologies and systems that support human prosperity without irreparably harming the natural systems on which that prosperity depends. These technologies are key to economic success as a nation in the 21st century. Therefore it is foolish and counter to America’s economic and global leadership interests to renounce the Paris Climate Accord. It was extremely important for Portsmouth to join with over 7,400 other cities around the world to voice our support for the Accord regardless of Trump’s reckless ignorance.
- 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.
President Trump is a draft-dodging self-centered ignoramus who has no authority or moral standing to comment on matters of anyone else’s patriotism. His comprehension of democratic and American principles and values is as thin as his famously thin skin. For a more thorough explication of my thoughts on this issue, please see my Letter to the Editor of the Portsmouth Herald published Sept. 30 of this year.
Q4: Regarding the Prescott Park Arts Festival (PPAF), please share your thoughts on the following:
- Should there be fewer PPAF events each year?
- Should there be limits on audience sizes?
- Should PPAF events end earlier?
- Should the volume of events be reduced?
I’ll answer all four of these questions by saying that I think the schedule and operating policies of the PPAF that have been arrived at by the Prescott Park Master Planning process have my support and represent what Portsmouth does best as a community when confronted with a challenging issue on which people have diverse views: We convene a discussion and decision-making process, gather information, listen to those diverse viewpoints, and arrive at a solution that all can live with/represents our best collective judgement (I’m thinking of the decision on the location of the Middle School — renovate/add on or build new).
- Is consumption of alcohol during PPAF events a problem that warrants stricter enforcement?
No, I’ve attended plenty of PPAF events, and while people will always likely find ways to smuggle in some alcohol to enhance their enjoyment of events in the park (as everywhere else in society), I’ve never seen any alcohol-affected behavior be a problem. Prohibition was a failure as a Constitutional amendment and it’s a no-win uphill battle in Prescott Park. We don’t need to spoil the atmosphere and inconvenience large crowds with Gestapo-like enforcement.
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?
B) Do you think city government has been accessible enough for residents? If not, what can be done to make it more accessible?
I think we have a very accessible municipal government staffed by professionals who are very open to/with members of the community. While there will always be individuals who are “better” or “worse” than others in communicating/interacting with others, I believe as a policy and in practice, City Manager Bohenko and all staff are committed to transparency and accessibility.
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 Council cannot repeal or enact any other policies that are contrary to the law of supply and demand. As all who live here can see, Portsmouth’s location, natural beauty, and numerous other attributes (historic significance and preservation of historic assets, artistic and cultural sophistication, restaurant scene, outdoor recreational opportunities, thriving economy, etc.) make it extremely attractive, and increased demand for a limited supply of anything makes prices go up — and in this case, up and up. What land (buildable lots) remain are very valuable, i.e. costly, so any project starts out needing to cover the high land costs and the substantial fixed costs of building anything (design, permitting, utility connection, required elements such as foundation, roof, elevator(s), fire protection systems, etc.). Developers have to pay all costs of construction, manage risk, provide a return to investors, and make a profit. Then affordability of the units is a function of how many are allowed to be constructed on the site along with all of those fixed costs.
Please see my answer to Question 9, “Portsmouth’s greatest challenges,” for additional thoughts on this topic.
The Frank Jones Center and the former K-Mart site are sites that people have identified as potential sites for workforce housing development. I have some additional, smaller sites in mind but without being in a position to understand the owners’ desires/plans for those sites, I’d rather not point to them just yet.
Q5: 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?
B) Do you think Portsmouth should develop a neighborhood parking program for people who live in the city? If so, how would it work?
Yes to both. I don’t have the expertise to design it myself, but I have a feeling that in 2018 such a program would work best through the use of technology — i.e., a smartphone app and a program where residents’ and downtown employees’ cars are registered and then are able to park in certain places at certain times and for certain durations — I think all the details need to be worked out with input from the affected/participating populations (downtown employers, neighborhood associations and their members, downtown employees).
Q6: Do you think the city should cut spending in order to lower taxes? If so, where specifically would you make cuts?
I think the City Council should always be looking to keep the annual growth of our budget (driven by inexorable, if modest negotiated cost-of-living increases in pay for city employees, health insurance costs, our levy by Rockingham County, etc.) as small as possible. We should always be looking for ways to deliver services more efficiently with technology improvements, etc. That said, 85 percent of the city’s budget is people, and Portsmouth is a wonderful community with a professional and very competent city staff delivering a wide range of services (including an excellent school system) that are the framework under which all the wonderfulness happens! As a councilor, I’ll bring my 30 years’ experience in and around government to bear, and be eager to hear suggestions from anyone, anywhere, about how the city could do something more efficiently/cheaply, or what it should stop doing/providing for its residents and business community.
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? No, not $10 million – that was a negotiating position.
B) Should the city proceed with efforts to take the land by eminent domain?
No, the city should have sought to retain and get Boyle to agree to mediation and have negotiated a settlement a long time ago, rather than wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs/attorneys fees and generating such acrimony with another prominent city business.
Q8: What is your stance on the regulation of short-term rentals, such as those offered through Airbnb?
I think services such as Air BnB, VRBO, etc. are the way of the 21st century, enabled by smartphones/the Internet, and the city and its residents need to find a way to embrace them. Short-term rentals can be a valuable way for retirees to generate income to help them afford the inexorable increases in property taxes that everyone is so up in arms about now. I understand people’s very real and reasonable concerns about the potential downsides associated with short-term rentals (competition for on-street parking, noise/nuisance issues the vacationers might bring to neighborhoods, etc.), and we should never allow whole properties to be owned by out-of-town owners who would want to operate them like remotely-run B&Bs. But we should also never make public policy and infringe private property rights out of our fear of the worst things that might happen. I believe with careful thought and discussion we could design a system of regulation and management that would allow Portsmouth resident owners to participate in the short-term rental economy in ways that would benefit everyone.
Q9: What is your stance on allowing Keno gambling in the city?
Absolutely against. I believe the Council’s recent vote on this was the right choice.
Q10: Looking 10 to 20 years into the future…
A) What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Portsmouth?
Workforce housing creation and improving mobility through better integration of all modes of transportation.
Given the very high land values in Portsmouth, the only way to get workforce housing built is to allow density in appropriate places (busy corridors and close to jobs) while letting go of the assumption — which translates into a zoning requirement — that every dwelling unit comes with a car or two. Many millennials see owning a car as a hassle and an expense they’d rather avoid! Sell the parking spaces separately. Dense developments along with a focus on enabling the mobility of those residents through car-sharing (i.e. ZipCar), ample bike and scooter parking, continued implementation of our Bike/Ped Master Plan, and shuttles/public transportation such as I describe below in “Parking & Traffic” will enable us to provide housing for the young professionals, service workers, artists, etc., who are such a vital but endangered part of our community.
While we need and have important opportunities to build additional parking capacity in places like the McIntyre site, Worth and Bridge Street lots (integrated with other uses), we must stop thinking that parking supply is the only answer to the parking shortage and downtown congestion and start thinking in terms of mobility for people — making downtown safe and attractive for PEOPLE — people who’ve parked at the periphery of downtown and are now walking or biking. Our current traffic flow pattern — directing every car to ultimately cross the same spot in Market Square — is what makes downtown traffic such a nightmare all summer, on Friday and Saturday nights, and at many other times! We must begin immediately piloting other strategies that focus on accommodating people safely and comfortably downtown, not cars.
In Portsmouth’s near future, I envision three intersecting electric trolley loops that run constantly (during appropriate times/days/seasons): one that goes from the Congress/Islington intersection (Jumpin’ Jay’s/Discovery Portsmouth) down State Street, looping under Memorial Bridge, down Bow Street, and back up Market and Congress; second loop from Congress/Islington intersection up Islington to the 800 Plaza, out Cass Street to Middle Street, and back to the intersection; and a third circling the Old North End neighborhood, from the intersection to the new Foundry Place garage, by 3S and the Sheraton, to the waterfront and back up Deer Street. Maybe on summer weekends we ban traffic from Daniel Street (send it down Bow Street) and Market Street — make the downtown core safe and enjoyable for people, not jammed with cars. Extensive discussion with and solutions that come from downtown residents and businesses will be key. We should experiment, implement flexible systems, and find what works for various days/times of day/events/seasons.
B) What do you see as the city’s biggest opportunities?
MacIntyre site, Worth Lot and Bridge Street lot redevelopment, and Islington Street corridor improvement.
C) How can the city start preparing for these challenges and opportunities now?
I believe, in true Portsmouth fashion, we already have begun excellent processes of discussion and planning that have us well-positioned. I’m running for Council because I want to help lead these visioning, planning, and execution efforts from this point forward to achieve results that will keep Portsmouth the great place it is to live, work, and play well into the 21st century!
BONUS: What are you gonna be for Halloween?
I’m going to be my campaign baseball card … on skates.
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.)