Portsmouth’s municipal election is Tuesday, Nov. 2. Below, incumbent City Councilor Petra Huda responds to PortsmouthNH.com’s candidate questionnaire.
Age: (left blank)
Occupation: Retired- Principal Financial Analyst
Civic experience: I served on 6 Boards/Committees as a first term City Councilor: Reopen Portsmouth; African Burial Ground Committee; Prescott Park Master Plan; Implementation Committee; Fees Committee; Cable Committee; Audit Committee
I also volunteer during tax season with AARP to prepare Individual Tax returns.
I have been volunteering at numerous events at Strawbery Banke 7+ years.
Years living in Portsmouth: 12
1) Do you think the city should impose any new measures or mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic at this time?
The Council needs to continue to monitor the data throughout the pandemic. The city staff has provided and will continue to provide excellent updates. The Council should continue to evaluate the measures that had been previously implemented to understand what worked & what could be improved moving forward.
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?
The Master Plan specifies temporary stage.
3) How do you feel about the current pace of development in Portsmouth?
I believe we need to Preserve the Character, Charm and Quaintness of Portsmouth by reviewing current zoning and development incentives based on the following:
Under the current zoning, Portsmouth’s historic character is being “BOXED IN” by higher & higher projects using “developer incentives” of either providing “a percentage of workforce housing units” or “open public space” to increase building height, the results can be seen in our newest “Boston like” development projects in the North End & West End.
It is time to change and simplify zoning & eliminate the ineffective developer incentives before we lose what makes Portsmouth, Portsmouth!
4) What, if anything, do you think should be done to increase access to affordable housing?
The meaning of “Affordable” is different for everyone. Portsmouth only has so much space to increase housing inventory, so prices are driven by the available housing at any given time. That being said, in the last 18 months we have been in a pandemic, which has had a dramatic effect on the cost of housing all over the country, Portsmouth is no exception.
The acquisition of the Community Campus for the people of Portsmouth will open up opportunities for the residents to determine what these 34 acres can be used for. Can this acreage be the affordable housing opportunity we need?
Also, it is time to review how many developers actually chose the workforce housing incentive when submitting a project proposal & then actually built the number of units originally approved?
The question must be asked “Have the incentives accomplished the intended result in the North End & West End”?
5) What changes, if any, should be made to the city’s bike lanes?
The changes have been implemented to bring the bike lanes back into compliance with the original intent of the money received under the “Safe routes to school program for grades 1-8”
The City Council just approved a sidewalk & multi-use path on Peverly Hill Rd. and that will include a connection to the rail trail, and recently took input on the Elwyn Rd. bike trail that is in the planning phase.
6) Regarding the McIntyre building, what do you feel is the best path forward to avoid litigation and get the project done?
I continue to support the McIntyre Project re-design, holding the course and taking it to completion — because this 2.1 acres belongs to all of the people of Portsmouth!
7) What additional measures do you think the city should take to slow climate change and prepare for its impacts?
As a city we have completed studies on the following: Coastal Resilience, Historic Property Climate Vulnerability, & created a Sustainable City Initiative.
The next Council should continue to move forward with the City’s 10 year plan initiatives and take advantage of any new technology since the last master plan was completed.
As the Council representative on the Prescott Park Master Plan Implementation Committee, I was part of the team that was instrumental in refocusing the phasing of master plan implementation from the performance stage — to first protecting the Prescott Sisters invaluable gift to the City from the sea level rise that is upon us from climate change.
Please see the details on the City website under Prescott Park Master Plan Implementation Committee for current Phase I activities.
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?
In speaking to business owners downtown, there does not seem to be support for the repeat of sidewalk closures or street barriers post Covid, but there is support for continuing in spaces that do not impede public access & parking for other establishments. Such as on Vaughn Mall, Popovers or establishments that choose to utilize their own parking lots.
9) What do you think the council can do to cultivate an environment of respect and collaboration and minimize hostility in local government?
The interpretation of respect & hostility can be taken in different ways and I am of a different opinion of the above interpretation that there is such.
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 one big issue that affects every Portsmouth resident & business, I will continue to be focused on bringing financial transparency and to rein in the Annual Budget & Property Taxes to help Portsmouth stay affordable to those who already live here.
BONUS: What are you going to be for Halloween?
Just enjoying being a spectator of the best Halloween parade ever!
To see other candidates’ responses, click here.