Bouley, Schweiker, Banfill to face off in next week’s mayoral election

  • Concord mayoral candidate Roy Schweiker is pictured at the Concord Public Library on Friday. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/29/2017 12:48:23 AM

In the Concord mayoral race, it’s a contest between three long-time Concord residents, all of whom bring their own personal experiences in the city to the table.

For voters, it’ll come down to a choice of beliefs: Do you agree with incumbent mayor Jim Bouley, who says the city is moving in the right direction? Or do you side with Roy Schweiker, who says it’s time for a change?

Investment in the city

Bouley feels the city is on the move.

Just look at how it’s infrastructure has changed over the past 10 years during his time as mayor: The city’s swimming pools have been replaced, the Sewalls Falls Bridge has been repaired, the Interstate 93, Exit 16 roundabout is nearly finished and most prominently, the city’s downtown has been revamped. And look at what’s to come – a multi-generational community center in the Heights and the development of the former Penacook tannery site.

Bouley has said all of these factors set Concord up for a bright future of more businesses moving to town, more market-rate housing availability and the broadening of the tax base.

It’s that last one, the tax base, that concerns Bouley the most moving forward.

“We are in a competition with other communities around the state to attract employers with good paying jobs,” he has previously written. “The city council has made a major commitment to that effort and it will take quite a few years of persistent effort, but in the end it will pay dividends.”

Bouley acknowledged residents may feel the burden of the city’s $27.67 tax rate, but he has also said the city’s return on investment has been good, pointing to the city’s fire, police, snow plowing, roads and other services.

The city has moved forward, too, with its acceptance of refugees and immigrants, who he refers to as “New Americans.” When asked by a city resident if he would support a bill that stopped any more members of those populations from resettling in the state, he emphatically said no.

“The idea of stopping refugees from coming is just silly,” he said at the Monitor forum on Tuesday. “They enhance our community far beyond what we could have imagined. … They not only fit in incredibly well, we have welcomed them, they are taking jobs and helping our economy. … I think as a city, it is our job to continue outreach to folks to ensure they have safe housing, to make sure they are functioning members of our community.”

But Bouley has remained vague about whether he would support the idea of keno coming to Concord, the only question on the ballot not related to elected officials.

“Truthfully, it’s up to the citizens of Concord, and whatever you choose is fine by me,” he said during the Monitor’s forum.

As of July 26, Bouley’s lobbying firm, Dennehy & Bouley, had been paid upwards of $700,000 since 2010 by Intralot, the company that provides gaming systems for the state of New Hampshire, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

During a Sept. 11 city council meeting, Bouley removed himself from a discussion about keno in the city, saying he did so to prevent any confusion about a conflict of interest.

“They do not have a state contract for keno,” he said at that meeting. “But there’s potential in the future that they may have a contract.”

Intralot has had a contract with the state since 2010; in 2014, that contract was extended to 2020, and included a provision that would make Intralot the provider of keno, should it eventually be allowed, according to Maura McCann, director of marketing for the New Hampshire Lottery Commission. She said Intralot will also be offering keno, which is expected to roll out in mid-December in cities that approve it, for the state.

However, Bouley said the contract doesn’t tell the whole story. While the Legislature did approve keno as a way to generate additional funds for full-day kindergarten earlier this year, he said the lottery commission has to renegotiate Intralot’s contract to reflect keno’s legality. From there, the contract must be approved by the Executive Council for Intralot to have a formal contract for keno with the state.

That hasn’t happened yet, leaving Bouley in what he called “limbo” during that Sept. 11 meeting, as to whether he should mention his ties to Intralot during the meeting.

“If I said to council I wouldn’t participate because of a conflict, I would have to say there was a signed contract,” he said. “That would have been getting out in front of the Executive Council … on the other hand, I know they would like to have a contract.”

Roy Schweiker

Roy Schweiker’s mayoral campaign is built on the idea that Concord is more than its Main Street – it’s even in the name of his campaign email.

But Schweiker said the city has forgotten that, and points to Chapel Street, just north of downtown, where he has lived for 40-something years, as an example.

He said the residents have asked for no overnight parking on the street, but because the city lifted the overnight parking ban in 2008, that request was denied. He said there have also been complaints about snow being plowed to the north side of the street, where most of the street’s elderly residents live. Those concerns have been ignored, too, he said.

“You can’t treat every street like it’s the same,” he said. “They all have different problems. … You can’t have a cookie-cutter solution to everything, or treat it like Main Street.”

Even the city’s motto has become less inclusive, Schweiker said. He said the city’s stationary now calls Concord “New Hampshire’s Main Street,” the slogan used on banners welcoming visitors into the downtown. He prefers the motto used by the Concord 20/20 project, a citizens planning group that spent several years conducting forums and addressing issues. That motto read, “A City of Villages.”

Schweiker said he’s not against further development in the city, but wants different development – outside the downtown, where he said only 3 percent of the city’s valuation resides. The Exel Inc. distribution center in Bow, he said, would have been perfect for the city, increasing the tax base and providing good paying jobs for lower-skilled individuals.

In particular, the city’s use of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts, frustrates Schweiker. He said the downtown TIF district does not benefit the city, because any tax base revenue generated by big projects – like the Smile Building and the upcoming Department of Employment Security project – goes back into the TIF district to pay off project bonds instead of lowering taxes.

“They keep the money forever and spend on themselves,” he said. “And the rest of the city has to pay for police, fire and schools, because their money is going to fatten up the TIF funds. … What we need to do is get some of these greedy, selfish people to give up their funds so everyone pays for police, fires and schools.”

While Schweiker has said he is not opposed to refugees and immigrants coming to Concord, he said he feels Concord should be more aggressive in asking for state and federal aid for their resettlement costs.

“Refugees are people who have been through a variety of issues and many of them have had unspeakable horrors. Refugees are fine people,” he said during the Monitor’s forum. “What we need to do, however, is not dump the cost of the refugees on very few communities, where Concord is accepting nearly as many refugees as Manchester, which is a much larger community.”

In the past seven years, Concord has taken in a total of 1,513 refugees from countries all over the world, most notably Bhutan, according to data from the state. About 15 percent of Concord’s total refugee population comes from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Sudan. Many of those countries are included in President Donald Trump’s most recent travel ban.

What we need to do is see that when the refugees come in, they come with the money so the affected communities don’t have to go broke, particularly the poorer communities like Concord,” Schweiker said at the forum.

Concord’s per capita income was $30,427 in 2015, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The state’s per capita income is $58,322, according to a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report.

Schweiker has also been critical of efforts in the city to host cold weather shelters. In a Dec. 11, 2016, “My Turn” for the Monitor, he wrote: “Several people homeless by economics or philosophy rather than health have complained that the city needs separate dry and wet shelters. I would go further and say that shelter staff and guests should not have to deal with physically or mentally unstable people, who should be routed to the emergency room at Concord Hospital for appropriate treatment.”

Schweiker went on to write, “… taxpayers should not be required to enable substance abuse by providing free housing, so abusers can spend their own money on drugs and alcohol. Shelter guests with jobs or disability checks should be charged a fee of say, $10 per night, and it might be surprising how many no longer need shelter but would rather slip the $10 to a friend for a couch.”

At the Monitor forum, Schweiker said he would support means testing for any cold-weather shelters open this winter in Concord.

On keno, Schweiker has said he’s glad the decision was put to voters, instead of being decided on by city council. But as to whether keno should actually come to the city?

“I don’t care one way or another,” he said during the Monitor’s forum.

Linda Rae Banfill

Linda Rae Banfill appeared for a portion of a candidate’s night forum hosted by the Monitor last week. She could not be reached for comment prior to or following the forum.

During the forum, Banfill said she was supportive of the city’s immigrant and refugee population, saying they have a good work ethic not seen in this country anymore.

“We are a nation of immigrants, my ancestors on both sides of the family happened to come into this country through Massachusetts and Portsmouth before the American Revolution,” she said. “… The people who come here now have a work ethic that we seem to have lost, and I’m sorry for that. I don’t know how we get that back from a generation that has its hand out instead of wanting to do some work.”

She went on to say: “I’m all for immigrants; Manchester, in my opinion, is a microcosm of what this country is all about.”

On the subject of keno, Banfill said she is all for kindergarten, and if keno is the only way to do it, then that’s fine.

“I have no children,” she said. “60 percent of my taxes goes to education … so I benefit indirectly. We need to get these kids off to a damn good start; it’s the future of our country and the state of the city.”

Banfill went on to say you can’t stop people from gambling.

The election is Nov. 7.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter @ActualCAndrews.)

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