Jim Bouley touts three terms of fiscal responsibility
As Jim Bouley campaigns for a fourth term as Concord’s mayor, he talks of the city’s financial health, emphasizing its five consecutive balanced budgets and its strong bond ratings despite an economic downturn.
The city council is now in a position, he said, to choose between a number of competing interests and potential projects.
Among those projects, he said in an interview with the Monitor’s editorial board, are a community center on the Heights, a new downtown library, the repaving of neighborhood streets and the extension of Langley Parkway.
“The council reviews (the capital improvement program) every year, we make decisions, we vote things in or out,” Bouley said.
The 47-year-old mayor lives on East Side Drive and works as a lobbyist. He has been mayor since 2007, and is facing two opponents this year: Chris Booth and John Cook, who ran against Bouley in 2011.
Bouley said there are several projects more important to him than extending the Langley Parkway from Pleasant Street to the intersection of North State and Penacook streets.
“I think I would argue that we need to revisit the neighborhood paving program, I think you could look at the community center, I think you could look at the library . . . I could continue the list of priorities that probably rise to the level that are more important or there is a greater need today than the extension of the Langley Parkway,” Bouley said.
The Langley Parkway plan drew opposition from residents at meetings this month where city engineers presented conceptual plans. Bouley said the project would be funded entirely with city dollars, and he does not think there is enough money or need for the project to move forward as it is scheduled, in 2017 and 2018.
One big project already under way is the city’s more than $10 million redesign of Main Street, which includes a $4.71 million federal grant.
Bouley said the nearly $200,000 of surplus funds used to hire a public relations firm will be critical in helping businesses survive construction.
“For $200,000 . . . we’re going to have webcams to make sure everyone knows we’re open for business,” he said. “We have daily communication for all the merchants so they know when construction’s going to be, when it’s going to be in front of their place, when it’s going to happen. We have social media that they’re using to make sure everyone’s up-to-date in the community.”
The city council also gave City Manager Tom Aspell authority to change parking regulations during construction, and Bouley has asked him to open unused parking spaces on the southern end of Storrs Street.
In Bouley’s work as mayor, addressing the issue of homelessness has become a personal priority.
“In terms of homelessness, it’s not really a city council issue, but it’s a city responsibility, I think, and for me it’s been important and that’s why I’ve pushed it,” he said.
Earlier this year, he appointed a steering committee to examine problems and propose possible solutions.
“Definitely by the end of the year we’ll be back with recommendations,” he said. “The recommendations are going to come probably with easy, low-hanging fruit to some mid-range goals and then the long-term goals.”
While the city “can’t be in the business of running” a homeless shelter, Bouley said he will look to continue partnerships with private groups; the city’s social services budget already includes funding for shelters and other organizations.
Bouley said he thinks the state government does need a new women’s prison, but he has concerns about the impact of building it next to the men’s prison in Concord. He said he asked the state Department of Corrections to go through the city’s planning review process and to hold a series of neighborhood meetings about the construction of the new prison. He has also asked the state to consider moving halfway houses out of Concord in exchange for bringing the women’s prison to the city.
“I’m not shy to ask for things,” Bouley said.
Bouley said he also has concerns about the impact of Northern Pass on Concord. The city is seeking to become a consulting party in the review process for the project. The mayor said he has been watching the issue closely and working with residents of the McKenna’s Purchase condominiums on the Heights, where lines will be moved close to people’s backyards. He said lines will also run near Concord’s airport, the Broken Ground area and off Mountain Road.
“So the city by participating in the legal process, I think we’re going to slowly start playing a much more active role and having a say,” said Bouley, who grew up in Littleton and said he is not very supportive of the entire Northern Pass project.
Bouley said he is happy that he spent two terms working to create a city ethics ordinance. It resulted in a board of ethics, and he said he thinks it is appropriate that the board members have no other role in city government. After the board’s creation last year, two complaints were filed against Bouley; both were dismissed.
“I’m glad I did it,” Bouley said of the board of ethics. “I didn’t like having to be accused of things I thought I was falsely accused of, but that’s part of the process.”
Street: East Side Drive
Job: Lobbyist for Dennehy & Bouley
City government experience: Three terms as mayor; five terms as Ward 10 city councilor