In city election, John Cook and Chris Booth look to unseat Mayor Jim Bouley
Both men challenging Concord Mayor Jim Bouley oppose the city’s acquisition of an armored BearCat vehicle. Chris Booth and John Cook filed to run Monday, creating a three-way race for mayor Nov. 5.
Cook has a long list of issues he thinks city government could handle better; the city council accepting a federal grant for a BearCat is just one of them. This is Cook’s second campaign for mayor; the 69-year-old veteran and retired state employee ran against Bouley in 2011.
Booth, 64, said he was running for mayor solely because he does not want the city to have a BearCat. He lives in an apartment on Loudon Road and did not become involved in city government until this summer, when he spoke out against a $258,000 federal grant for the city to purchase the armored vehicle.
“It’s just a waste of taxpayer funds and it doesn’t come out of the Concord city budget, but it does come out of our federal taxes,” he said in an interview yesterday.
Booth said he is concerned about the militarization of local police departments, and he believes the armored vehicle would be used to drive up to residents’ homes and arrest them.
“It’s just inexcusable to interrupt people like that in a military manner,” he said.
Concord applied for the BearCat on behalf of a regional special operations unit with 20 member communities. The vehicle itself is not armed with weapons, and police Chief John Duval has said it would only be used to offer protection in emergency situations.
Booth, a retired electrical engineer, said Bouley and the city council should have listened to the more than 1,500 residents who signed a petition opposing a BearCat.
“I would make sure that the BearCat never arrived in Concord,” he said. “I think a creative option that somebody offered is if it does arrive in Concord, put it up for sale immediately so that at least Concord can get some money out of it.”
Booth has lived in Concord for two years. He spent most of his life in Canterbury, and ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010.
“Well, I actually was planning on running for state rep next year, but the BearCat prompted me to run this year (for mayor),” he said.
The mayor and nine city councilors voted last week to accept the federal grant for the BearCat vehicle. Bouley spoke in favor of the BearCat this summer, and he has said that, “if this protects (the police) when they do their job, then I think it’s appropriate.”
Beyond the BearCat issue, Booth said he does have some ideas for Concord. He would like to keep the city small by discouraging new residential development and thinks an ideal population is 30,000 residents. (Concord has more than 42,000 residents, according to U.S. Census data.)
Booth also wants to bring manufacturing to the city, particularly solar panel manufacturing. He is an advocate for solar energy and thinks it won’t be long before the country is dependent on solar and wind power.
Cook spends his days in downtown Concord, and he’s full of ideas to improve it.
“I think I got one more wrestling match left in me,” he said of his second run for mayor.
Two years ago Cook earned 15 percent of the vote against Bouley.
“It’s going to be hard to unseat Jim,” he said. “But there’s some issues.”
Cook is concerned about the city’s last round of commercial property assessments, the council’s vote to accept a federal grant for the BearCat, pay-as-you-throw trash bags and the cost of redesigning Main Street. Most importantly, he said, city government is ineffective.
“You can’t talk for two hours in a council meeting and get anything done,” he said.
As mayor, he said he would spend his time informally talking through the city’s problems.
“It’s supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people,” he said.
Cook is a homeowner and landlord on Union and Maple streets, just blocks from city hall. He said he walks downtown for breakfast every morning, goes home for a few hours and returns to Main Street for dinner and drinks.
During an interview outside the Concord Food Co-op on South Main Street yesterday morning, Cook pointed to vacant storefronts and office space, greeted a city parking officer by name and pointed to spray paint that he would like removed from a sidewalk and utility pole. He worries about how the city will care for the $10.35 million Main Street redesign and streetscape project once it is complete in 2015.
“And we can’t even get the duct tape off the curb right here,” he said, walking to the edge of the sidewalk and pointing at a few small squares of tape. “That’s from Market Days, the duct tape’s still on the curb from Market Days.”
Cook said he ran “on a lark” two years ago, and had briefly considered running again if no one else was going to challenge Bouley this fall. On Monday, he said he stopped by city hall, found five dollars inside the book he was carrying and decided to use it for the filing fee.
This year, Cook has a campaign slogan: “By all means, jaywalk.” He doesn’t think the police should spend time stopping pedestrians who don’t use the crosswalk.
Cook also has a history with the Concord police; he was arrested in 2011 and charged with disorderly conduct and exposing himself to two police officers. He pleaded no contest to the disorderly conduct charge and the indecent exposure charge was set aside. His criminal record also includes a 2005 arrest in which he allegedly kicked two police officers as they transported him to Concord Hospital. He told the Monitor during the 2011 campaign that he had been drinking before each of his run-ins with the Concord police, but wanted the police to be nicer to residents.
Cook said yesterday that he does go out for drinks in downtown Concord nearly every night. He walks between his home and downtown.
Bouley, 47, is running for a fourth term as mayor. He lives on East Side Drive and works as a lobbyist for the firm Dennehey & Bouley. He told the Monitor this week that he looks forward to discussing his record with voters, and he is most proud of his work to manage the city budget during difficult economic times.