Editorial: It’s not just the Year of the BearCat
In recent years, city elections – and city politics generally – have been pretty sleepy. So, for instance, if you had told us a year ago that the feds were going to offer Concord an armored vehicle, that the police chief would insult the Free Staters, that the city would try to lure the school board into the debate and that a vote on a vehicle called a BearCat would generate the most lively election campaign in recent memory, we would have been skeptical.
We’ve been surprised and encouraged by the sudden interest from local residents in running for the city council. As city hall reporter Laura McCrystal pointed out on Sunday’s front page, incumbents often go unchallenged when they run for reelection. When challenged, they nearly never lose. But democracy works best when voters have a real choice. This season’s large crop of candidates will bring new ideas to the debate and force the incumbents to prove themselves before the voters.
All that said, we encourage the newcomers not to make 2013 simply the Year of the BearCat. Love it or hate it, the vehicle is on its way. The best councilors, and the best council candidates, will be the ones who can show voters that they’re informed on a broad range of issues facing the city today and into the future. Here are a dozen questions we’re hoping they’ll be able to answer between now and November:
1. Concord has struggled to respond appropriately and effectively to the relatively large number of homeless residents camping by the Merrimack River and beyond. Are there better strategies for the city to try?
2. Are you encouraged or concerned (or both) about the construction of a new women’s prison off of North State Street? Is there a role for the city to play in ameliorating any negative effects on the city?
3. What’s the highest use of the Employment Security building on South Main Street, once the state government vacates the property?
4. Are there concrete ways to keep commerce humming during the Main Street construction project?
5. South Main Street has been the focus of most downtown redevelopment in recent years. North Main Street is home to numerous empty storefronts. What should be done?
6. Does Concord need a new, bigger public library downtown? If so, where should it go? How should this rank among the city’s wish list of public improvements?
7. Outgoing Councilor Liz Blanchard recently suggested that the city investigate how to seize power over the school district’s budget. Is this a good idea?
8. Why do you think the city got just one, unexpectedly high bid for its downtown construction project? How should the city respond?
9. With the developer having backed out of building plans for the Penacook tannery, what’s the future of that site? Are plans for a grocery, even a small one, unrealistic? If so, what else would generate commerce and traffic to the village?
10. A new civic group is exploring ways to improve the view of downtown Concord as seen from Interstate 93. What would you suggest?
11. The Legislature recently gave cities the option of keeping bars open until 2 a.m., rather than 1. Should Concord do so?
12. Are you satisfied with the city tax rate? If not, are there concrete ways to cut city spending that you would endorse?
There’s plenty going on in Concord these days, much of it good. Decisions made by the city council in a range of areas will help determine its future. This election is surely bigger than a BearCat.