The Sound’s 2015 Portsmouth City Council Voter’s Guide: Esther Kennedy

Portsmouth Voters Guide
Esther Kennedy

Esther Kennedy
Occupation: Educator, director of student services for Gilford School District and professor of graduate studies at Plymouth State University; owner, Esther’s Marina and Teaching Today for Tomorrow
Years living in Portsmouth: 27
Prior public service experience: City council; member, Governor’s Committee on Marine Fisheries, Pierce Island Committee, Historical Commission; Portsmouth Fishing Committee; Port Advisory Committee; Star Island Corporation

How often do you walk into downtown or use public transportation? What can the city do to encourage more pedestrian traffic and public transit use?
I walk in on a regular basis. I took the parking shuttle twice this summer with friends. We need to look at the big picture. We must figure out what our transportation needs are in the entire Portsmouth community. The downtown is not the only place that has transportation concerns. The current council heard this from the Portsmouth Listens study on transportation. The information that was given was very creative and inclusive. The following are a few of the many suggestions from this meeting: walkability, new sidewalks, lights on Route 1, opportunities for public transportation for our growing number of Baby Boomers, and affordable transit for our employees.

How would you address growth and development throughout Portsmouth?
Through our new master plan. The master plan is created by the planning board for the citizens of Portsmouth with community input. Residents need to attend the public meetings and give input if they have concerns about the growth and development. According to the current schedule, the council will be reviewing and voting on this plan next spring. This next council will be responsible for what Portsmouth is to become, including growth and development for the next 10 years.

What can the city do to restore public confidence in the police department and the police commission?
I have faith that the public will come out and exercise their right to vote. The public will pick the commissioners that meet their norms and values. It will be up to the police commissioners that are elected to do what is right. As we have learned over these past months, the city council has little power when it comes to the police or fire departments. However, as a citizen I would like to see the police department step up and make the needed changes to the department. The police department and the new commission owe it to the public to restore confidence.

How can Portsmouth encourage the development of more affordable and workforce housing?
The new council needs to continue work on zoning through form-based zoning. This zoning must continue to include incentives for developers to create affordable /workforce housing.     Officials need to work with our state officials to have them address the topic at the state level so there are state incentives for the creation of housing. I truly believe that this should also be a regional concern and we need to depend on our surrounding communities to work on affordable housing.

What role should the council have in working with the Prescott Park Arts Festival to address residents’ complaints about noise?
Given the following facts — the city owns the park; there is a trust with guidelines on what should happen in the park; the park is in a residential neighborhood that has been inhabited longer than the creation of the park, and the park is enjoyed by many residents for its culture and location — for these reasons the council needs to play a major role in making sure that all parties are heard and respected. Decisions about the park must be made based on the intent of the original trust and in honor of the Prescott sisters.

How can Portsmouth respond and adapt to the impacts of climate change?
Given my personal interest, I have attended meetings on this topic at the county and state level. It has become clear there is a need to look at climate change as a region. We are very lucky to be near a University that is working hard on this topic. As a region we must bring together our resources and expertise to respond to climate change. I believe that not one community can adapt to climate change on their own.

What is one recent change for the better in the city, and one you hope to champion as a councilor?
The change for the better I believe has been form-based zoning. It has allowed public input in the creation of Portsmouth zoning. Like many, I do not agree with all the outcomes of this process, but it allowed for everyone to have their voices heard.
The wastewater treatment plant, and either keeping it in the fence line or moving it to Pease, is a cause I will continue to champion. The reason I first ran for council was the treatment plant and it is one of the reasons I’m still running.

What was the most recent cultural event you attended in Portsmouth?
Some might consider the city council meeting I attended last week a cultural event. But, I will go with two weeks ago at Prescott Park Arts Festival.

What is the most important issue facing the city that no one is talking about yet?
What makes Portsmouth a great city is that people are willing to talk about the issues and have no problem bringing up their concerns on topics. With that said, I have learned on council each neighborhood is very different and their needs are very different. However, one thing that every neighborhood is going to soon have to deal with is stormwater runoff as suggested by the N.H. DES and the EPA. My fear: this could become very costly to many residents and commercial entities going forward.