Portsmouth’s municipal election is Tuesday, Nov. 2. Below, incumbent City Councilor Deaglan McEachern responds to PortsmouthNH.com’s candidate questionnaire.
Occupation: Senior Director Yext
Civic experience: Portsmouth City Council (2 years), Advisory Board SOS (3 years), Co-Founded Seacoast Business Owners
Years living in Portsmouth: Always called Portsmouth home.
1) Do you think the city should impose any new measures or mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic at this time?
Not at this time. Given that the emergency powers were not renewed by the governor the clearest authority we have as a city lies with the health officer. She is closely monitoring and following the data and has not seen the need for further mandates at the moment. I do however follow her recommendations.
2) Do you think the Prescott Park Master Plan should be updated in any way? Specifically, do you think the stage should be temporary or permanent? Covered or uncovered?
I voted to approve the resiliency updates to the master plan and preserving the park will remain a top priority. These changes had the added benefit of creating a more linear stage / performance lawn by moving the Shaw building to higher ground. Given the new location, I believe the safest option for performers as well as best option to abate the performance noise most effectively would be a covered stage permanently installed. The best time to implement this would be after the completion of Phase 1.
3) How do you feel about the current pace of development in Portsmouth?
I understand the desire to bottle up Portsmouth as it stands today, or even go back to a time before, but our history has always been defined by how we’ve responded to change. I’m reminded of this with a pamphlet my neighbor left me early in my council term.
“Portsmouth is under siege by developers. The Spirit of our community must be maintained. Dislocation of people is a primary issue. The budget must reflect the needs of all citizens of Portsmouth.” – Portsmouth Action Group, 1985
The pressures from 1985 are relevant today because change is constant. The question we must ask and have always asked, is what will our future be?
Growing up in Portsmouth and now raising my family here, I’ve seen a lot of change. I would love my daughters to be able to raise a family here, but I hope they don’t have to live with their parents or win Powerball to do so. So while we need growth, that growth must incorporate the economic diversity that has made this city great and respect the natural resources that make it beautiful. I also believe we need to remove the public space option when offering density bonuses to ensure that new buildings are required to offer affordable housing.
4) What, if anything, do you think should be done to increase access to affordable housing?
On the public development side we need to better partner with the Portsmouth Housing Authority (PHA) to build, maintain and improve below market rate housing in the city. We can look at raising revenue bonds, or providing city land to better achieve this.
On the private development side we need to remove the public space as a density bonus option. Of all CUP permits granted, no active projects took advantage of the workforce housing option given how much easier it is to comply with public space requirements.
5) What changes, if any, should be made to the city’s bike lanes?
Bike lane projects need to better connect destinations, and cannot be islands of safety.
Peverly Hill Road is a good example of a multi use path on a treacherous road. We should consider this option more for generally unsafe roads or areas that also need traffic calming.
6) Regarding the McIntyre building, what do you feel is the best path forward to avoid litigation and get the project done?
I’m disappointed our development partner has restarted the lawsuit. At this point we must heed legal advice, and I remain confident it makes much more sense to work together with our development partner rather than in opposition. I support the Community Plan that was created through the Portsmouth Listens process.
7) What additional measures do you think the city should take to slow climate change and prepare for its impacts?
We can think big and create our own green energy through a community power generation program, or take small steps like removing HDC review for solar panels on downtown flat roofed buildings. Whatever the path, we need to include mitigating climate change in our ten year plan to prepare our city by the sea and slow the impact. As I mentioned above it has already been included in the updated Prescott Park Master Plan.
8) Do you support the idea of seasonal road closures and/or barriers to accommodate outdoor dining at restaurants — even after the pandemic has (hopefully) subsided?
Yes. I was proud to co-create the Citizen Response Task Force that worked to implement public realm dining. In years to come I would expect fees to be associated with the space to create a more equitable solution across many different businesses.
9) What do you think the council can do to cultivate an environment of respect and collaboration and minimize hostility in local government?
Humility goes a long way. I believe Portsmouth voters elect us for our judgement rather than an exact domain expertise. I strive as a councilor to keep an open mind, and ask questions that help me and hopefully residents better understand an issue.
10) Aside from the issues already raised in this questionnaire, please outline ONE other priority you would address as a city councilor over the next two years.
The next council will help create the Ten Year Master Plan and we have a lot to cover. One thing that hasn’t come up in this questionnaire or on many doors, but I believe is critical is how we build back from COVID.
I am confident we will overcome COVID from an emergency health standpoint, but with Work From Home becoming a fixture at many companies, how will Portsmouth position ourselves to better foster community in our city. How will we manage the growth in our population with many having flexibility to live outside of major city centers. It’s a huge question and one that I believe must respect the economic diversity that is part of the fabric of our city.
BONUS: What are you going to be for Halloween?
I was told by my daughter I am Bowser, my wife is Princess Peach, my youngest is Toad, my dog is Luigi and she will be Mario. You can see us in the parade.
To see other candidates’ responses, click here.