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Name: Petra Huda
Occupation: Financial analyst – retired
Years living in Portsmouth: 9-plus
Public service experience: Volunteering with AARP doing free individual tax preparation; volunteering at Strawbery Banke for various events
Q1: What can the city do to increase its supply of affordable housing?
The meaning of “affordable” is different for everyone.
The economic concept of supply vs. demand generally dictates the price of anything. Portsmouth only has so much space to increase housing inventory, so prices are driven by the available housing at any given time.
The good news, according to the January 2019 Portsmouth Herald article, there is a housing boom going on in Portsmouth.
Development in progress includes: the Frank Jones buildings, West End Yards, Middle Hill, 273 units on North Mill Pond, Westerly and The Veridian off Lafayette Road, five new condos on Peverly Hill Road, four-story apartment construction by Hannaford.
Bottom line is supply will be increasing substantially as each of these projects is completed, which should help bring the prices down.
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?
Yes, in the administrative areas of all departments — other operating expenses, contracted services, office supplies, just to name a few.
In my opinion, budgeting $2,500 for office supplies for one person in the IT department is something that should be questioned. Also, the practice of carrying over a line item amount from year to year in the budget even though zero was spent in the prior year (i.e. professional services — Inspection Dept., FY18 budget: $5,000; actual spent: $0; FY19 & FY20 budget: $5,000. Why??).
Are there specific areas where spending should be increased? Not without further analysis.
Q3: Do you support a citywide ban on single-use disposables such as plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam containers?
Yes, as I noted at the last City Council meeting, I support this effort and protecting the environment but there are a lot of questions that need clarification at this point in time:
– First, there is NO support from the state of New Hampshire at this time.
– The city is only able to ban these products on city property.
– How does the city enforce the ban?
– How would this be enforced in food trucks coming into the city for a day?
– How much is this going to cost to implement?
– After the second reading at the last council meeting, it was not clear what exactly we are trying to ban. Then the discussion was down to only Styrofoam containers, and only on city property.
– Also, the implementation as originally proposed was 12/31/19, but has been pushed out to the end of 2020.
Q4: Regarding the McIntyre redevelopment project:
A) Do you support the Redgate/Kane plan?
B) Do you think the Council should step back and consider other plans, such as the one put forth by Bill Binnie?
I am hoping that all the time and money that has been spent to get the project this far is not wasted and the city and the developer could put forth a compromise plan that would combine the positives of the Binnie proposal with the current plan.
Q5: What can be done to clean up and prevent PFAS contamination and other chemical contaminants on the Seacoast?
The polluters need to be held accountable for cleanup:
– The federal government, Department of Air Force at Pease
– Coakley Landfill Group, which includes local towns that used the facility (which the city of Portsmouth is approximately 56 percent responsible for Coakley landfill cleanup), and large corporate waste disposal companies.
As for what can be done to clean up the PFAS contamination, I would defer to environmental scientists like Mindi Messmer on process and treatment needed to do the cleanup.
The good news is the state of New Hampshire has finally banned the use of the fire-retardant foam that is the major cause of the PFAS contamination at Pease.
Q6: Do you feel that development in Portsmouth — particularly of luxury condos, hotels, and other large-scale buildings — should be curtailed?
Portsmouth should take a pause in development and do a realistic evaluation of:
– How many hotels the city can really support.
– How much first-floor retail is going un-leased for 3-4 years after completion.
– Why is the new parking garage at Foundry Place below capacity forecasts — only 28 percent full? Are we seeing a decrease in visitors?
– What are the water and sewer requirements? Do we have the capacity to support more hotels and large box buildings?
Q7: What are your feelings on the idea of building a permanent covered stage in Prescott Park for festival events?
Prescott Park was given to the city to be an open space for all. I do not believe it is practical to build a permanent structure due to the shortness of the season. There are other options available.
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 a better way to utilize the current road-sidewalk configuration that was put in place on Middle Street.
I believe a good example of how a sidewalk can be shared with both bicycles and pedestrians is the pathway/sidewalk off South Street running next to the ballpark down to Little Harbour School. This path supports a higher volume use than the lanes on Middle Street with enough room for bicycles and pedestrians on the path. Both are protected from vehicle traffic by a curb.
Safety education — emphasis on riding single file on the road with other vehicles.
Issuing of a license or safety badge to children up to 15 who complete a safety-training course.
To reduce motor-vehicle traffic downtown, look at connecting to mass transit used in most other cities.
Q9: Are there any significant projects that should be undertaken outside of the downtown area and Islington Street corridor?
I don’t know if getting sidewalks would be considered significant to everyone, but sidewalks are a significant project to the residents of Elwyn Park and Peverly Hill Road who have been waiting for quite a few years for this capital improvement.
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?
Summer is primetime for road construction, which can only be done in the warmer/dryer months, such as: Maplewood Avenue, Islington Street sewer project, Woodbury Bridge over Route 1 (I believe this is the state of New Hampshire, which the city does not have control over). But I would defer this question to Mr. Public Works, Peter Rice.
Q11: What actions should be taken at the city level to address climate change?
The city has already identified the areas that will be most vulnerable to sea-level rise (see map in City Hall or on city website).
The city was part of the “Coastal Resilience Initiative” study, which identified vulnerable areas of the city and put forward suggestions on how to prepare for increased flooding in coastal areas.
Q12: Name one of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest opportunities Portsmouth will face in the next 10 to 20 years.
Challenge — WATER
Not enough clean drinking water to sustain growth for both residents and commercial development.
Too much water — rising sea levels due to climate change.
On the other side, sewage treatment, both commercial and residential. Is the city planning adequately for industrial growth, which is now tapping the residential water supply at an accelerated rate (i.e. Lonza)?
Opportunity — Looking at alternative water sources to meet not only the city needs, but that of surrounding Seacoast communities. Our coastal location provides us an ideal opportunity for a de-salinization plant. If we build it and other towns need it, can it pay for itself?
BONUS: What are you gonna be for Halloween?
A spectator at the Halloween Parade.