Vision and issues
The overarching challenge for our town is “Keeping Portsmouth Portsmouth.”
Maintaining our town’s unique character should be the test for any Town Council decision. That means managing development and preserving open space, but it also means maintaining the quality of our schools, ensuring that town services are delivered efficiently and effectively, and supporting the local economy.
What makes Portsmouth such a great place to live is that it’s truly a community — a place where people care about each other and work together to accomplish things. Whether it’s the huge number of parents and families who support and participate in our school activities or the amazing people who volunteer their valuable time and expertise for town committees, we share a sense of common purpose. Town government needs to play a key role in maintaining the environment where that happens.
That means managing threats (like rising sea levels), implementing sound, evidence-based policies (like the wastewater management district), providing for safety and security (like supporting the construction of a new police station), evaluating opportunities (like the tank farms), and ensuring that we manage change appropriately (through the upcoming revision of the Comprehensive Plan). Town government needs to advocate for our citizens with our general assembly delegation (on issues like aid to cities and towns and the school funding formula) and provide a forum where local issues can be analyzed and resolved peacefully. Taken together, these are the kinds of things that impact the quality of life and define the community we live in. The Council should provide stewardship to preserve that which is essential to our town.
Three key issues for me are education, environment, and the local economy.
Portsmouth has always had an excellent school system, something which both provides an invaluable service to our children and attracts families to our community. We need to invest appropriately in education, and that requires that the Council work closely with the school committee to ensure that funding levels are appropriate. I first became involved in local politics after the Tent Meeting in 2006, so this is an issue that I’m passionate about.
Our environment makes Portsmouth special. We need to continue the work of past Councils in preserving open space, managing our beautiful resources effectively, and ensuring that development is in keeping with Portsmouth’s character. It’s critical that the next iteration of the Comprehensive Plan matches our vision for the town. We also need to manage threats to our environment, which makes it important to oversee the efforts of the Wastewater Management District and ensure that the cesspool phase out process happens smoothly. For some neighborhoods, like Island Park, the reality of sea level rise will require action at the state level, and the Council needs to ensure that projects like updates to Park Avenue get appropriate attention in the RI Transportation Improvement Program.
The local economy requires focused attention from the Council. We need to continue to communicate with our town’s businesses, large and small, to ensure that appropriate policies are in place. We need to work with our state legislators to ensure that we are able to maintain our Enterprise Zone, which helps businesses locate and expand here. And we need be ready as the transfer of the tank farms approaches. There are significant potential economic upsides to development there, but it will require thoughtful planning and input from the Town.