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: Paul Mannle
Occupation: Data Specialist with IKUN LLC @ Pease, 25-plus years as an independent contractor, a “hired gun,” specializing in business, process & data analysis and account research & reconciliation.
Years lived in Portsmouth: 27
Public service experience: Citywide Neighbor Steering Committee, Portsmouth Listens Steering Committee, 7x participant — Portsmouth Listens Study Circles, volunteer — PS21 Tactical Urbanism, resident & neighborhood advocate.
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?
No. Any individual, including any city councilor, has the right to express their opinion on the actions of any POTUS. But, the City Council, as a group in a public meeting, is there to conduct the business of the city of Portsmouth as the elected representatives of the residents, period. Weighing in on such issues disrespects the residents of Portsmouth who voted for Trump, regardless of the reasons. I find it ironic that the Council, so concerned about residents “hijacking” their meetings with public comments/public hearings, had no problems doing the same.
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.”
- 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.
- 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.
See answer to A) above.
Q2: 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?
- Is consumption of alcohol during PPAF events a problem that warrants stricter enforcement?
The current Council unanimously adopted the Prescott Park Master Plan, which was a great community dialogue process. The plan establishes the city manager with the authority & sole discretion for the management of the park and its tenants. I believe Mr. Bohenko will follow the PPMP & do what’s best for Portsmouth.
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?
“Transparent enough”? It depends on the issue. The City Council should ALWAYS have the full discussion, all cards on the table, all the pros & cons & any consequences that can be foreseen, ALWAYS. And, before voting, they should always ask themselves a question — how does this benefit the residents? If just one side is presented or discussed, that’s not a full discussion nor transparent, they’re trying to sell you something.
B) Do you think city government has been accessible enough for residents? If not, what can be done to make it more accessible?
Yes. City government has its website with a ton of information. The councilors all have addresses, phone numbers, & email addresses posted publicly. A few are social media mavens, commenting daily. They are plenty accessible. Meetings are public & announced, videotaped & minutes kept.
Accessibility is not a council issue, it is up to individual resident to use those avenues.
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?
Given the lack of usable land, the cost of available land, and the real estate market, I don’t believe it’s possible to add enough supply to have any effect on the overall housing costs. While infill projects can add some supply, it won’t make a dent. Again, we need to look at the whole picture and have the full discussion. If Portsmouth is the hub of the Seacoast area, we need to involve the surrounding communities, where land is plentiful and inexpensive by comparison, as this is a regional issue. Also, since the drivers of affordability are twofold — cost of housing and transportation — we should be looking at a more robust transportation.
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?
Both issues should have been solved years ago, instead of making promises year after election year to placate. Portsmouth Listens took on these issues years ago, researching what other similar communities have done, but these reports were ignored. I would advocate for residential street parking stickers similar to Boston, & residential parking stickers to gain a discount in the High Hanover garage. I would also advocate for the acquisition the 12-plus-acre Frank Jones parcels in the West End, with safe & timely shuttle services running down Islington Street. This could’ve been done a lot faster & cheaper than a 600-space garage that ensures no solution. All of this could be paid for by limiting the number of business leases in the High Hanover garage to two per business, raising the lease price, and opening more spaces for public parking.
Q6: Do you think the city should cut spending in order to lower taxes? If so, where specifically would you make cuts?
I believe we should start at a zero tax increase. The Council needs to scrutinize the whole picture, not just the budget, which is only proposed spending for the upcoming fiscal year, but also the revenue side, as well as past concluded fiscal years. The city has been running an annual surplus for years; where did the money go, and, more importantly, why should we annually fund a line item when the previous years went unspent or had a surplus? I will work with the three other charter departments (Fire, Police, and School) to find savings, knowing the City Council only has “bottom line” authority. But looking at the whole picture, I believe we can reallocated resources, maintain and/or improve services, while reducing spending & increasing revenue.
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?
This 10-plus year vendetta against a property owner has already cost the taxpayers of Portsmouth over $3 million in court-ordered legal fees, all because the city made a mistake — it didn’t bother to obtain a sewer easement from the previous owners before it ran a sewer line. The current council decided to double-down with eminent domain, costing more taxpayer money and I believe will fail again. You have to ask yourself — why is the city 0-15 when it comes to taking Mr. Boyle to court? It is obvious that the courts believe Mr. Boyle is in the right, so a concerted, dispassionate approach & negotiation is needed to obtain the sewer easement and end this waste of taxpayer money.
Q8: What is your stance on the regulation of short-term rentals, such as those offered through Airbnb?
Short-term rentals are already allowed in the city in the business districts & the immediate buffer zones (MRO), not in the residential areas. Allowing short-term rentals in residential areas, especially those areas close to downtown, virtually defeats the goals of the affordable housing advocates. The two positions are incompatible, one of the reasons why the ADU zoning prohibits short-term rentals.
Q9: What is your stance on allowing Keno gambling in the city?
Q10: Looking 10 to 20 years into the future…
A) What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Portsmouth?
B) What do you see as the city’s biggest opportunities?
C) How can the city start preparing for these challenges and opportunities now?
To always have the FULL DISCUSSION! We are a community filled with passionate, intelligent, & reasonable residents from all walks of life who have an incredible amount of knowledge, experience, & skills. Given the opportunity to engage, participate, and make a difference, our residents can come to reasonable solutions on ANY ISSUE facing Portsmouth, now or in the future, without any of the acrimony & finger pointing we see all the time. The Prescott Park Master Plan is a perfect example of this. As long as the full discussion is had on any issue (development, parking, McIntyre Building, budget, taxes, climate change, sustainability, neighborhoods, zoning, housing, etc.), we as a community can achieve great results. Everyone won’t get everything, but “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just might find, you get what you need.”
BONUS: What are you gonna be for Halloween?
If I can find the right costume, Isabella Soprano.
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.)