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Editorial: Bouley deserves fourth term as mayor

The candidates running against Concord Mayor Jim Bouley are the kind of opponents politicians dream of having. One doesn’t believe that repaving the city’s crumbling side streets and patching potholes should be a priority. The other believes potholes are a good thing. In fact, Concord may need more of them, since they slow speeding drivers. One wants to help shrink the city’s population from 43,000 to 30,000 over the next decade because small cities are more manageable. The other opposes the Main Street revitalization plan, building a new library or community center on the Heights. To his credit, he admits that Bouley probably deserves a fourth term and he’s right.

Serious voters have no choice but to cast their ballots for Bouley. Fortunately, no harm will come from his lack of serious opposition. Bouley is an effective, accessible and affable leader with a sense of humor that helps him survive travails that include the constant downshifting of financial responsibilities from the state to its cities and towns.

Bouley has championed a tight budget that led to a surplus this year but still allowed spending on infrastructure, including the rebuilding of the Route 3 corridor. He has a good sense of what’s possible now, what needs more support and what must wait until later. The goals on his to-do list as mayor are the right ones and tend to be in the right order.

Completing projects already under way is Bouley’s first priority. Those include finishing the rebuilding of the Route 3 corridor, moving ahead on the revitalization of Main Street and replacing the Sewalls Falls bridge. The bridge is a disaster waiting to happen. For a cheap thrill, walk across it if you dare and note the twisted railings and crumbling concrete.

Redesigning Loudon Road to make it safer, since federal money would cover 90 percent of the cost, is next on his list, followed by the creation of a community center on the site of the former Dame School. Further down his list is building a new city library. Unforeseen events like a deal too good to refuse or a large gift from a benefactor could affect their order, but Bouley’s priorities are the right ones.

Throughout his first three terms, Bouley led the fight to find winter shelter for the homeless. To search for a more permanent solution to the growing problem, he put together a committee of people with expertise in the area to recommend a course of action. That course could include the creation of an all-day resource center where the homeless could receive services, and steps to take to get the chronically homeless off the streets and into supervised housing.

Due in great part to Bouley’s efforts, the city switched to a pay-to-throw system for trash that has dramatically increased recycling and placed costs where they belong: on those who generate large quantities of waste. His support led to an end to a decades-old ban on overnight parking that did little to make the streets safer but greatly inconvenienced residents. He helped to convince his fellow councilors that the city’s near-complete ban on alcohol sale or consumption on public property or at functions in city buildings should be replaced with tightly-controlled permit system. That change increased the ability of nonprofit event organizers to attract visitors and raise revenue. And he pushed to streamline codes and regulations that critics say hinder efforts to spark development that increase the tax base.

Bouley is a true believer in open government and building support for projects by involving stakeholders early in the process. The changes he has overseen have made Concord a better, more interesting place to live. He deserves reelection.

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