The Sound’s 2015 Portsmouth City Council Voter’s Guide: Nancy Pearson

Portsmouth Voters Guide
Nancy Pearson

Nancy Elizabeth Pearson
You never ask a lady her age.
Nonprofit administrator
Years living in Portsmouth:
Prior public service experience:
I have put in many years of volunteer work, from coaching Little League to tutoring inmates at the Strafford County Department of Corrections in Dover. I also have served on the board for the Bell Center for Arts in Dover as well as Art-Speak in Portsmouth. This is my first run for public office.

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 love to walk and be outside, and we are a single car family, so often I don’t have a choice. In fair weather I walk or bike into town or down Islington Street about once or even twice a day for meetings, to run errands, or just grab coffee. This past summer, I rode the COAST trolley out to C&J at Pease to pick up our car in short-term parking. The trolley only runs hourly, so I had to plan ahead. Round trip took about an hour, which is three times longer than driving.

Many people want or need to walk, but there are not currently enough sidewalks connecting neighborhoods to commercial areas, or to each other. With today’s distracted drivers, a buffer between pedestrians and cars is more important than ever. Additional and wider sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes on connector roads and traffic corridors would make walking and biking more safe and enjoyable.

Portsmouth is a small city and it should be convenient for those who don’t drive to get to where they need to be within a reasonable amount of time. Adding more bus routes, bus stops and shelters would improve the functionality of the transit system and the daily lives of many residents who rely on public transportation.

How would you address growth and development throughout Portsmouth?
We cannot permanently alter the historic look and charm of our great city. However, commercial growth and a broader tax base are essential elements in maintaining any vital city with manageable tax rates for residents. Form-based zoning is a good step in addressing the need to prevent construction of buildings that are inappropriate in size, scale, and appearance, especially in historic neighborhoods. Looking ahead, it is possible to preserve and honor our historic architecture while exploring new ways to move our community forward. Historic cities from Boston to Barcelona have navigated the delicate balance of old and new, and Portsmouth can too, with a critical eye, a balanced approach to land use policies, and openness to innovation.

What can the city do to restore public confidence in the police department and the police commission?
It is not within the city council’s jurisdiction to hire or terminate city employees and in this instance it appears the issue is on its way to resolving itself. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of our police department has not done anything to jeopardize public confidence and it is unfair to lump everyone in law enforcement together. As for restoring confidence in the police commission, the voters will have their say on Nov. 3rd.

How can Portsmouth encourage the development of more affordable and workforce housing?
When I moved to New Hampshire in the late ’90s with my family, we couldn’t afford to purchase a nice home in Portsmouth, so I understand this issue because I lived it. Recently, I’ve been participating in the planning department’s master plan community workshops. We’ve explored additional housing scenarios across the city, which include densification near the downtown, as well as areas of the city that either have open land or existing property that might be converted into a mixed-use development, which is a combination of residential, commercial, and green space. The goal is to create affordable neighborhoods with amenities close by, and ideally, that are connected to other areas in the city, including downtown. It will be interesting to see if the residents of Portsmouth support these types of initiatives, especially the creation of mixed-use developments.

What role should the council have in working with the Prescott Park Arts Festival to address residents’ complaints about noise?
I think the mayor should have turned the matter over to Art-Speak from the very beginning. As the cultural commission for the city, part of Art-Speak’s mission is to act as the liaison between the cultural community and the city. By definition, a liaison helps organizations or groups work together. Had the mayor relied on the expertise of Art-Speak to facilitate discussion among the neighbors, the festival, the city, and the greater community from the start, perhaps some of the polarization that sprung up around the issue of noise could have been mitigated. Plus, through moderated community discussions and working groups, the path to a mutual agreement would have been more transparent. Moving forward, Art-Speak is ready to support the city as needed.

How can Portsmouth respond and adapt to the impacts of climate change?
As a parent and lover of the outdoors, I care deeply about the health of our planet and what condition we will leave it in for our children, grandchildren, and beyond. As a resident in a coastal community, I expect the city to be prepared for extreme weather activity, which is becoming the norm. I was pleased to learn that in 2013, Portsmouth participated in the first ever Coastal Resilience Initiative climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan, funded through a grant from NOAA. This is an excellent step in climate change preparedness. The project report included sections on public health, policy, planning, and regulatory recommendations. I would hope that the city uses the data from the report in its planning process for the master plan, any disaster preparedness planning, as well as capital improvement projects like the wastewater treatment facility.

What is one recent change for the better in the city, and one you hope to champion as a councilor?
I’m encouraged that the city council voted unanimously on the $23 million bond for the proposed parking garage at the Deer Street location. This is an excellent step in addressing one of the biggest inconveniences facing our residents, visitors, and employers who frequent the downtown. The location is ideal because it catches vehicles close to the city gateways and aims to reduce the traffic coming into the downtown loop. I will continue to offer my full support for this project, including the proposed micro-apartments, civic space and public art. There are excellent examples of creative, even beautiful parking garages and we should be open to innovative design. Portsmouth deserves a parking facility as charming and interesting as the city itself.

What was the most recent cultural event you attended in Portsmouth?
I spent the summer attending a variety of events at Prescott Park, 3S Artspace and Strawbery Banke, and I attended Art ’Round Town on the first Friday of September. I also participate in many events on behalf of Art-Speak, like the upcoming Blank Page Poetry project with Jerome Meadows, the artist who designed and created the African Burying Ground Memorial Park.

What is the most important issue facing the city that no one is talking about yet?
Making a bold plan for the transfer of the Thomas J. McIntyre Federal Building. If the city is serious about addressing the affordable housing crisis, and if the residents really want to bring more diversity into the city, then this building should be acquired and converted into housing via a public-private partnership between the