Allan Herschlag looks to bring transparency to city council
Allan Herschlag closely follows city government, and he is concerned about a lack of transparency in its process.
“I think what I’d like to see is the public having an opportunity to chime in a little bit earlier in the process,” he said. “As opposed to when it’s finally determined that, ‘It looks like it’s going to move ahead, could we have your opinion?’ And people get the impression that by that point in the process, it’s pretty much decided that they’re going to move forward with it.”
Herschlag, a 63-year-old retired city maintenance worker, Concord High School coach and landscaper, is running for city council in Ward 2.
This is Herschlag’s fifth run for city council. He last lost a close election to Ward 2 Councilor Jennifer Kretovic in 2011. Asked what brought him back again this year, he cited “some of the same issues.” Kretovic now lives in Ward 3 due to redistricting; Herschlag is running against Tim Bauman for her seat.
Herschlag has criticism of the city’s handling of the upcoming Main Street redesign project. The new design will reduce traffic to two lanes with a crossable median, widen sidewalks, increase accessibility and add public art. Work was scheduled to begin this fall, but it was delayed after the city only received one bid for the construction contract that was double its estimated cost. Herschlag is worried about that, but also the steps that came before it.
“It’s not a matter of liking it or not liking it,” he said in an interview with the Monitor. “I think it’s being done upside down.”
Herschlag said Concord should first work to add businesses and fill vacant spaces on Main Street. He noted that Manchester improved its downtown Elm Street after it was revitalized with new businesses and restaurants, and those business owners helped cover the cost. If that were done in Concord, he said, there would be greater community buy-in for aesthetic improvements on Main Street.
Since the Main Street project has already been approved, Herschlag said he hopes the public relations firm hired for communications will lessen the blow to merchants during construction.
“So now what do we do? I think we have to keep our fingers crossed again and hope that Louis Karno (& Co.) does a tremendous job with promotions and keeping people coming to the downtown,” he said.
There are other city projects for which Herschlag recommends a different approach. He disagrees with the city’s use of tax increment finance districts and other property tax or impact fee incentives to promote development. A combination of incentives should not be used “if it puts cash back in the developers’ pockets,” he said.
Whether the city is redesigning Main Street, building a new road or moving the library, Herschlag said more public input and careful study are needed. Before applying for a federal grant for the Main Street project, he said the city should have spent more time testing and studying designs. Before moving the library from Green Street to another possible downtown location, Herschlag said more study is also needed.
“Do we know if the library can’t be reconfigured (at its current location)?” Herschlag asked. “And what’s the cost to the community going to be if we move the library?”