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Chris Booth runs for mayor on BearCat issue

Chris Booth

(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Chris Booth (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Chris Booth decided to run for mayor after Mayor Jim Bouley and 10 city councilors voted to accept a federal grant to purchase an armored BearCat vehicle.

Booth, a 65-year-old retired engineer, said the issue was a “cut-and-dry case” because dozens of people spoke out against the vehicle at a public hearing, and more than 1,500 residents submitted a petition opposing the BearCat.

“You have to look at what your constituency wants,” he said in an interview with the Monitor’s editorial board. “You may think it’s the greatest idea in the world to do something, but if the people you represent don’t want that, you have to defer to them.”

Booth, who lives on Loudon Road, is running against Bouley and John Cook in the Nov. 5 mayoral election. He said his first priority is bringing manufacturing to Concord.

“We have a large industry in Concord which is the state – everybody works with the state, and that’s why they roll up the streets at five o’clock, because everybody goes home at 4:30,” he said. “There’s nobody left. But we need industry, too.”

The city council could consider zoning specifically for manufacturing, Booth said. In Penacook, he would like to bring manufacturing to the former Allied Leather Tannery site that the city has worked to clean up and redevelop.

He is also concerned about federal regulations that he said push manufacturing overseas. While that is out of the control of the city government, Booth, who ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010, said Concord could do a better job communicating with its congressional delegation.

“We need to tell the federal government what we need here,” he said. “And every other town is the same. The United States is just a collection of cities and towns and 50 states.”

Booth said he prefers small towns over large cities and would like to reduce Concord’s population to 30,000 residents. The city now has more than 42,000 residents, according to U.S. Census date.

“Smaller is always better,” Booth said, because neighbors could better get to know each other and their government.

“I really think that it can be done,” he said of shrinking Concord’s population. “You control who builds anything, you know, no new buildings, minimum house lot size.”

Booth said he is a supporter of Main Street and has never been inside the Steeplegate Mall. But he has concerns about spending more than $10 million to redesign Main Street. He is worried about the project’s cost and the one construction bid that the city received this fall for double its budget. That bid has been rejected.

“(The plans are) great, but come back when you’ve got some competitive bids, and we come up with something we can afford,” he said.

A plan to reduce Loudon Road from three lanes to two lanes with a center turning lane is a bad idea, Booth said. He called the center turning lane a “suicide lane” and said he feels it would be unsafe for drivers.

Booth said he would support building a new community center at the former Dame School.

“Community centers are always great,” he said. “They provide a local focus . . . for things that kids can do after school.”

He said he would support a library presence in a new community center on the Heights, but Concord does not need a new downtown library.

“The existing library is fine,” Booth said. “We could have 10 times as many people in Concord and the existing library would be fine. And the reason why is that people use the internet today.”

Booth said he does not feel that Concord has trouble maintaining its roads, and the city does not need to pay extra attention to road paving or repairing potholes.

He does not support the extension of the Langley Parkway from Pleasant Street to the intersection of North State and Penacook streets, but he said something should be done to make the northwest area of the city more accessible from the highway.

On the issue of homelessness, Booth said “there is no excuse to have even one homeless person in the United States, anywhere,” noting that there are more vacant homes than there are homeless people. He said he opposes many restrictions in the federal welfare system. At the city level, he said, Concord officials could direct the homeless to available housing. He does not feel there is a shortage of shelter or housing because there are vacant homes due to foreclosure.

“We need to encourage home ownership, too, including . . . people who are homeless,” Booth said.

Chris Booth

Age: 65

Street: Loudon Road

Job: Retired electrical engineer

City government experience: None

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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Concord Mayor Jim Bouley is facing two challengers in the Nov. 5 election. John Cook, ran against Bouley in 2011 and earned 15 percent of the vote, is running again this year. The third candidate is Chris Booth, a former U.S. Senate candidate who decided to run after the city council voted to acquire an armored BearCat vehicle. Bouley is … 0

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