Manchester's mayoral election is tomorrow. Incumbent Ted Gatsas faces challenger Joyce Craig. This morning on Morning Edition we heard from Craig about her approach to a variety of issues at stake in this election. All Things Considered host Peter Biello spoke with Gatsas.
You pushed for a drug court for the county, but that didn’t work out. How could you, as mayor, make a difference in the fight against opioid abuse?
I've been talking about this long before it has come to the surface of where it is. I’ve been talking about it for over a year. When you talk about drug courts, I can tell you that there’s legislation right now in Concord that’s going to move it forward. . . . And I think that’s going to be a step that everybody in the state’s going to pay attention to in order to figure out the model that we have here and bring it to other locations in the state. The most important thing that I heard in drug court, in watching what was going on, was finding these folks a place to live and a job. I’ve talked to 10 businesses that will give these folks another opportunity to get a job once they’re in drug court so they can make restitution at drug court and pay their fines.
You were strongly criticized for vetoing a pay raise for teachers in Manchester. You said instead, and I’m quoting here: “Let’s sit down at the table and see if we can’t work something out that’s not only a fair contract for teachers but a fair contract for the taxpayers of this city.” What’s the status of those negotiations?
The contract is passed, the finance officer came forward and showed us the financial analysis over the next three years, that next year’s budget—when we start putting it together, which I have to produce at the end of March—shows an $800,000 shortfall, and that’s with 17 unions on the city side not having come to an agreement, and four more unions on the school side that have not come to an agreement. So you look at that number and say, “How are we going to deal with this without any other increases in any other line item?” And that’s including a one percent tax cap increase.
The most important thing on the school side is to get more teachers in the classroom so we can reduce class sizes. With this contract, we’re looking at laying teachers off to make it workable for both the taxpayers and the teachers.
There’s been a lot of talk about how to attract and retain young families to remain in the city. Other than improving the school system, what needs to be done to make Manchester a desirable place for young families?
Well, I can only tell you the developers don’t invest millions of dollars because they don’t have faith in the city of Manchester. Right across from City Hall, the old Amoskeag building, Bill Denny has bought and put in 100 luxury apartments. Brady Sullivan has put in Mill West, and they’ve also completed the lofts down in the millyard. People are moving into the city, there’s another 150 units being build right next to the ballpark. So folks have great faith in the city of Manchester. We just announced the other day a 300,000 square foot expansion and putting in retail shops over at the Sylvania plant down on South Willow Street. So great things are happening in the city of Manchester. People come from all parts of the state to dine in our downtown, and I think that’s something—with the excitement that happens at the Verizon Arena and Fisher Cats stadium—there’s always good reasons why you want to come to Manchester.
Ted Gatsas, mayor of the city of Manchester, faces Joyce Craig in tomorrow's election.