Where do Manchester’s mayoral candidates stand on top issues?
Voters will go to the polls in Manchester’s city elections on Tuesday. This year’s mayoral race is a rematch between incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig, a Democrat, and former state representative Victoria Sullivan, a Republican.
NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley talked with both candidates about their plans for the city. Here’s what they had to say.
One of the most pressing issues across the state, and certainly in the city of Manchester, is housing. It's becoming increasingly difficult for people to afford rent, especially among low-income families. Here’s what Craig and Sullivan say about their plans for making housing more available and more affordable in the city.
Joyce Craig says she’s allocated nearly $8 million in federal funds toward affordable housing.
“And what that would be used for would be to increase the number of units in the city, to renovate units in the city, to work with landlords, to encourage them to provide affordable units to residents in the city of Manchester.”
Victoria Sullivan says there are many abandoned houses and properties around Manchester that the city could repurpose to help increase inventory.
“When I speak to business owners that are willing to take on some of these properties, they're up against some regulations that make it cost prohibitive,” Sullivan said. “So we really need to look at what we are doing as far as regulating our way into these situations.”
It’s been a tough time for school districts during the pandemic as they’ve worked to provide students with a good education while keeping them safe. Manchester has the largest population of immigrant and refugee families in the state, and many of those students attend Manchester Schools.
Joyce Craig says city schools provided a comprehensive summer learning program for students who have fallen behind during the pandemic.
“We have a lot of resources that are in the district right now, from social services to tutors for every student who wants it, to working closely with parents to ensure that the connection is there,” Craig said.
Victoria Sullivan says schools need to build better relationships between administrators, teachers and families.
“We already have the tools available through the New Hampshire Department of Education, and I'm really looking forward to bringing, especially, these families into the fold because once we do that, we can support their children and we can see drastic improvement very quickly,” Sullivan said.
Police reform and the role of police has been another issue at the forefront of conversations happening in Manchester. There have been many protests and marches down Elm Street this past year calling for police reform in the city.
Joyce Craig has expanded the Manchester Police Department’s community policing division by 30 officers while in office.
“We've increased annual training for our police officers from six hours to 40 hours, and that training includes things like de-escalation as well as cultural competency,” Craig said. “We're increasing foot patrols and community policing”
Victoria Sullivan says she supports the police and has held pro-police events in the city.
“We have a very strong police force and, you know, many of them live here,” Sullivan said. “So they are neighbors too. And I think we really need to not be looking at national agendas that are being pushed.”
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND PUBLIC HEALTH
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the inequity within health care and public health systems. People of color and people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
Joyce Craig says the Manchester health department has done a great job providing access to testing and vaccinations to address COVID-19.
“And we’ll continue to do extensive outreach as we’ve been doing to make sure people understand that this is a safe vaccination, and that really the only way we can get out of this is to see a larger percentage of individuals get vaccinated so that we can reach herd immunity,” Craig said.
Victoria Sullivan says improving public health efforts is not just a municipal conversation, but a conversation that also needs to happen on the state level.
“As a former state legislator, I have a working relationship with the state and with Gov. Sununu,” Sullivan said. “And I’m looking forward to having those conversations.”
The pandemic has led to mistrust in public health networks across the country, including here in New Hampshire.
Joyce Craig says she’s built a coalition of people in Manchester with whom she works regularly, including a multicultural advisory board.
“Communication is key in all of this, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Craig said. “We’ve been getting out into the community.”
Victoria Sullivan says the solution to rebuilding trust is to build relationships within the community, and have conversations that are honest and truthful.
“Even if they’re not pleasant conversations, we have to have tough conversations in order to be able to build those relationships back up,” Sullivan said.