John Jack Blalock
Occupation: Owner, Old Ferry Landing
Years living in Portsmouth: Life-long resident
Prior public service experience: 15 years on Zoning Board of Adjustment (chairman for eight years), two years on City Council (as assistant mayor), serving currently on Portsmouth Housing Authority Development board.
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 to downtown several times a week. Portsmouth is the best walkable city and I am fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood close to downtown. As a downtown business owner, I often network and have healthy conversations with other local merchants. The city should keep its current policy of providing alternative satellite parking options within a short walk to town and continue to provide the “free” shuttle from the church lot on market street extension.
How would you address growth and development throughout Portsmouth?
Reasonable growth and development is necessary to sustaining our local economy. The city council needs to exercise caution on overdevelopment (and) enforce zoning laws and changes needed to reflect our evolving environment, minimizing the impact to congestion and city services. We need to continue to provide our residents with quality municipal services without over-taxing property owners, (which) discourag(es) young families and older residents. Overall, I would like to see Portsmouth continue to be an active and vibrant city in the seacoast. Given that I am a lifetime resident of the community, I think it is critical to balance our development with an objective to preserve the quality of life, education, and local character.
What can the city do to restore public confidence in the police department and the police commission?
To restore the confidence in the police department and Police Commission, the city has to get better with transparency, communications, and the ability to receive feedback from the public. Communications need to pass through to the police chief and his officers.
How can Portsmouth encourage the development of more affordable and workforce housing?
Affordable and workforce housing can be encouraged by altering zoning laws to allow for more density in some targeted areas. This would be in exchange for a commitment to create a specific type of housing, much like the Portsmouth Housing Authority has done for years. I have the honor of serving on the PHA Development Board and (have) first-hand experience in seeing the creation of affordable and workforce housing. More affordable housing will enable young families to settle here for employment opportunities and allow long-time residents to remain. This is a demographic balance that is missing to sustain our quality of life and healthy economy. A development strategy to support a diverse economic base and workforce housing is critical to our city’s growth.
What role should the council have in working with the Prescott Park Arts Festival to address residents’ complaints about noise?
The city council should support and encourage the PPAF to realign the current stage to face the Piscataqua River, as proposed. It is important to continue the ongoing and collaborative discussions with the PPAF staff. Prescott Park is a jewel in the city’s crown, helping tourism and putting Portsmouth on the map as a cultural center.
How can Portsmouth respond and adapt to the impacts of climate change?
The city can continue to look for ways to minimize and reduce greenhouse gasses through sustainability practices with buildings and infrastructure. I believe the city manager and his staff have been committed to this goal. We also need to adapt to changes in our environment and prepare to deal with rising tidal waters. Emphasizing alternatives such as walking and biking around town is critical.
What is one recent change for the better in the city, and one you hope to champion as a councilor?
The recent commitment to creating more parking has been a priority. It is the biggest frustration to outsiders visiting our city, and locals. The support for local satellite parking lots, shuttle services and the building of the new parking facility on the outskirts of the central business district will enhance our visitor’s experience (and) positively impact local businesses and tourism. I have no personal agenda except to do what’s right for this community and its residents. We live in a wonderful city and I realize the importance of compromise for the greater good. As a life-long resident and local business owner, I sincerely care about the future of Portsmouth.
What was the most recent cultural event you attended in Portsmouth?
The last cultural event I attended was the production of “Peter Pan” at Prescott Park in August, a wonderful and well-performed family event. I have been a fan of the PPAF since its inception, a marvelous cultural spectacle for young and old to enjoy. The arts have historically been part of the city. Any opportunities to enhance how we can better leverage the arts in our community should be pursued.
What is the most important issue facing the city that no one is talking about yet?
The impact of the city acquiring the Thomas McIntyre building on Daniel Street. There has been some talk, but now the actual transfer is imminent. We must consider the impact that the use of the large parcel and building will have on downtown, considering the needed construction (and) what uses it will provide.