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Politics

Watch or Listen: Manchester's Mayoral Candidates Debate at NHPR

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Dan Tuohy | NHPR
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Joyce Craig (left), the Democratic mayor of Manchester, debated Republican challenger Victoria Sullivan for an NHPR special broadcast

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and her Republican challenger, Victoria Sullivan, face off in a debate moderated by NHPR's Peter Biello and Paul Feely, city hall reporter at the Union Leader.

The debate was broadcast live on NHPR on October 28th, 2019.

Election Day in Manchester is November 5th.

Listen to the debate:

(Scroll down for a transcript of the debate)

Watch the debate:

Read a transcript:

Note: The following transcript was machine-generated and contains errors.

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Peter Biello:
This is a special live debate with the candidates for mayor of Manchester. I'm All Things Considered host Peter Biello. Our organizations today have come together to host this debate featuring incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig and former State Representative Victoria Sullivan. Voters in New Hampshire's largest city will head to the polls on November 5th to weigh in on this race.

Peter Biello:
Now a little bit about our candidates here today. Joyce Craig is a Democrat seeking her second two year term in office before taking the role of mayor. She served on the board of Aldermen and the city's school board. Welcome. Mayor Craig.

Joyce Craig:
Thank you for having me.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig is being challenged by Victoria Sullivan. She served two terms as a Republican state representative from 2014 to 2018, including as assistant majority leader. Representative Sullivan, thank you very much for being here as well.

Victoria Sullivan:
It's great to be here. Thank you. Now, before we get started, I want to let listeners know about our format. We'll start with an opening statement from each candidate. Then each candidate will have a minute to respond to that question. Each question, the other candidate will have a minute for rebuttal. And then the moderators may choose to open it up to further debate on a particular issue with 30 seconds or so follow ups. And then we'll have 30 second closing statements at the end of the program. So let's get started. We decided the order of opening statements by a coin flip before the debate. Representative Sullivan, your opening statement, please. Thank you.

Victoria Sullivan:
When I'm out there talking to people, knocking on doors and sitting in parks, talking to people that are really in need in our city, I have to keep asking myself, are we really better off than we were two years ago? And if you're looking through a neutral, non-partisan lens, the honest answer would be that we're not.

Victoria Sullivan:
Our homicide rate is up. Our overdose deaths are up. Our third grade reading levels are down. And these are the same as these the same issues that were discussed two years ago during the debates. And to see that we haven't made any progress. In fact, we're doing worse. And this is very concerning, which is one of the reasons that I was I decided to run. I'm running to be mayor because I believe in the city both for what it is, what it was and for the potential of what it could be. I truly believe that Manchester's best days lie, lie ahead. And I look forward to leading our city to a safer, more prosperous days.

Peter Biello:
Thank you. Mayor Craig, your statement.

Joyce Craig:
Thank you, Peter. I'd like to thank you and Paul and the Union Leader for hosting this debate. And Miss Sullivan for participating. In less than two years, we've created a culture of collaboration and made meaningful progress by strengthening our schools, improving public safety and growing our economy. Together, we've achieved some real results. Six percent decrease in crime, a 16 percent decrease in opioid overdoses, 102 miles of roads throughout the city that have been paved and reconstructed. A ten point five million dollar grant for our school district, over eight hundred new high paying jobs to the city of Manchester and over 250 million dollars in new private investment in economic development. I'm proud of what we have achieved through my first term as mayor. And I look forward to working together with the community to continue the progress that we've made. And I look forward to the conversation today. Thank you.

Peter Biello:
Thank you, Mayor Craig. And before we get into the specific issues facing the city of Manchester, I do want to mention that NHPR is hosting this debate in partnership with the New Hampshire Union Leader today. And we have New Hampshire Union Leader City Hall reporter Paul Feely. Paul.

Paul Feely:
Let's start with the issue of homelessness. Mayor Craig, recent reporting from the Union Leader shows the city's welfare department has already spent more than 40 percent of its budget in the first three months of the fiscal year, with the city seeing a spike in homelessness. Was the city adequately prepared to handle this?

Joyce Craig:
Yes, we are keeping close tabs like we do with every department. We ask our department heads to come forward and let us know if they feel like they potentially may be overspending. But things tend to balance out, as you have seen over the years. I appreciate our welfare to director and all of the work that she's done. She's done significant outreach into the community that hasn't been done before. And what she has specifically focused on is ensuring that people who potentially would lose their homes are staying in their homes. And that's absolutely critical right now. So I support the work that she's doing. In fact, I was just speaking to someone today from the faith based community who said there's a great partnership that's been in place since the new health directors here where the city welfare department will pay for a month of rent, where this faith based community will pay for the security deposit. So there are good partnerships that are in place and we're keeping a close eye on what's happening and ensuring that people are staying in homes and not ending up in the streets.

Peter Biello:
Representative Sullivan, one minute to respond.

Victoria Sullivan:
Yeah. It's actually the response is actually surprising to me because people are ending up in the streets. People are in our parks. They've been out there talking to people who feel like that they are disenfranchised and they're not getting the help that they need. And when I talked to multiple faith based organizations, they say they have gone to city hall for help and they have not received any of the supports that they need. If we were prepared. The question was, were we prepared if we were prepared, prepared for this? And the mayor said, yes, we were we would not be seeing the increase in homelessness that we see in our streets. We would not have people afraid to go downtown because they have to. I was just down there last night and there were five people curled up in blankets in the doorway of one of the restaurants. If we will if this is called preparedness, then we are in a lot of trouble going forward in our future because we weren't prepared. And now we are playing catch up and trying to help these people. Winter is upon us. This whole week is going to be rainy and flooding. And I don't know what we're going to do with these people are living out there. We weren't prepared for this and we don't have a plan right now in place that is helping them today.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig, 30 seconds.

Joyce Craig:
Thank you. We do have a plan. But the question was regarding the welfare department, their goal and most of what they do is keep people in the houses that they have. We do have a chronic homeless problem in Manchester like we have for many years. Like many cities do. And we are working on that. But I don't think we should be getting this these two things mixed up. We are working to keep people in the homes that we have. We are working both within our shelter and with the state to ensure that there is appropriate housing throughout the state for individuals who need it.

Paul Feely:
Representative Sullivan, as part of plans to address crime and homelessness in Manchester, you promised to, quote, end panhandling at anti-sanctions. Given that in 2017, a federal judge struck down Manchester's anti panhandling ordinance and police practices, saying they violated the First Amendment. How would you look to end panhandling?

Victoria Sullivan:
Right now, I think I believe that was because they you can still ask for the money. But if we make it so that it's a safety issue where people can't tend to things out the window, then it becomes a safety issue for our highways and also to make the medians that they stand on before emergency use only. So those are the two ways that we can do it. They've been done in other places. The ordinances have not been said to be unconstitutional when they're done in that way. We've also seen cities that allow panhandling only certain areas. And what they did was they made it areas that weren't didn't have a lot of traffic or people down there. So then it wasn't worth it for people to go to that city to panhandle.

Victoria Sullivan:
So those are the ways that we can do it, where we're not violating the constitution, but the ordinances that we do have in place. We need to support our police officers and give them that give them the support they need to actually enforce the ordinances that we have in place now. Because speaking to the officers, they're very frustrated that they are not supported and we are not letting them do their jobs currently to to take care of that downtown area.

Joyce Craig:
We actually. Excuse me, do have informants in place right now regarding safety and stopping. So if a car does stop and it is a safety issue that can be taken care of. And regarding support to our police officers, I have been working with the Manchester Police Department since day one and the chief of police, whether it was Chief Willard when I first started or Chief Capano, we have a close working relationship. We speak every day. And I've worked hard to ensure that they have the resources in place to support what they need. This cannot be cured with additional ordinances. In fact, we've done an exhaustive research in terms of ordinances and we have so many in the city right now and we're working to put a few more on. But it's it's a combination of if you see something illegal happening. So, for example, Miss Sullivan said she saw a homeless person sitting in a doorway that's not allowable. Like you could call the police and have that person moved along. So we need to work as a community to address this. This is a complex issue, can not be solved with ordinances. Thank you.

Peter Biello:
Follow up question for both of you. We'll start with you, Mayor Craig. Representative Sullivan mentioned the possibility of a city implementing a safe zone for panhandling, a place where that would be allowed. Would you support such policy?

Joyce Craig:
It depends. Again, it has to be vetted out through the city slushies office and consistent with the the constitution. What we have found so far is that that is not possible in Manchester at this point. If new data and new information comes forward, absolutely, we could potentially do something like that. But as of right now, we have looked into it and it's not a possibility.

Peter Biello:
Representative Sullivan, would you suppor t such a policy?

Victoria Sullivan:
I'm sorry. Can you repeat the policy?

Peter Biello:
The the idea that there would be a designated safe zone for panhandling in any particular city. But of course, for the purposes of this debate, the city of Manchester, would you support such as policy in Manchester?

Victoria Sullivan:
I don't know about its safe zone for it because that we've tried to educate the public and let them know that we want that money to go to the organizations or the groups that are helping. I think making it so that it's not a feasible way to have an income is one thing that we should do. But I'm actually I'm well taken aback by the mayor's response to that. We can't arrest our way out of homelessness. We can't call the police. Every time we see a homeless person, I'm in the park. Sometimes I see 10 or 20 homeless people we're supposed to call the paddy wagon and have them taken off to jail. That's not a solution for this problem at all.

Joyce Craig:
It's not against the law for a homeless person to be in the park. So I wouldn't suggest that anybody call the police because there's a homeless person in the park.

Victoria Sullivan:
You just said that.

Joyce Craig:
No, I didn't.

Peter Biello:
We can move on to another issue for now. But because there's some there's a lot to cover within the next 50 minutes or so. Among those issues, the issue of opioid abuse. This question will go first to you, representative children, as part of your campaign. You have promised to reform Manchester's Safe's Station program. You have said it is, quote, unfair and unsustainable for Queen City first responders and taxpayers to bear the financial burdens associated with the program. So the question is, who else must bear the financial burden and how would you manage to get those parties to pay?

Victoria Sullivan:
Thank you. So as a legislator, I had put in a bill that would have helped with this. And right now I'm working with legislators again to to put it in again, hoping we get support. Now, there's so much attention being paid to this happening in our city, but the Doorways program is actually supposed to help with that. And now that we have the budget passengers' funding coming here, the other thing that the governor's been working on and I spoke with him about is sort of a triage that's out in the streets. So instead of having law enforcement and an ambulance and the fire trucks come out, we'd actually have a triage unit with medical experts and people that help with recovery because we need to get these people into recovery in the moment that they wanted and that was what Saved Station was intended to do with the legislation that I have up there now that they're helping me with, it will encourage and incentivize other communities to have save station programs of their own in the way that works best for their community, because not every community in New Hampshire has a 24 hour police station sorry, a fire station.

Paul Feely:
Mayor Craig, same question to you. The queen city, of course, bearing the burden of save stations. Are there other parties that should share in this responsibility? And how would you help them do that?

Joyce Craig:
Absolutely. And I'm doing it right now. Save Station wasn't put in place in 2016, and it was put in place because there was nothing else in the state to help people. And it has been very effective in terms of getting people access and then into treatment. The Doorways program started. And I appreciate that there are doorways open now in eight other locations throughout the state. But right now, the treatment isn't there. And so we're seeing people coming into Manchester.

Joyce Craig:
In fact, if you look at the data from Safe's Station last month, there were 61 percent of the people who came to a safe station that were from outside of Manchester. So I have been working to get the attention of the state for many, many months. And now they are here working with us in Manchester. We are meeting with them every two weeks. They've had a presence at our shelter. They've re-enrolled over 260 people and Medicaid. They've actually been able to get people into shelter in their home locations, which is critical. And we need to continue to work with them. One of the things that's been so successful was Save Station is that it's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The doorways are only open Monday through Friday, 9:00 to 5:00. So the state has committed to looking into making sure that happens. Okay.

Peter Biello:
Paul Feely, your questions.

Paul Feely:
Representative, though, let's move on to the subject of crime. I guess, Representative Sullivan, a recent e-mail from your campaign describe Manchester as being, quote, a city with a constant stream of violent crimes, combined with a downtown that has been plagued with violence, drugs and people living and relieving themselves on the streets, end quote. Are you concerned about painting too dark a picture of the city?

Victoria Sullivan:
I am concerned that other people aren't painting an accurate picture of the city so that we can actually address these problems and come forward and find solutions. We didn't make that up. Those are people have come to me with these stories. When I was downtown last night, I had an event where I would want to go downtown and meet with people casually. And I had a gentleman tell me that he was downtown a couple of weeks ago and he was trying to grab his car and couldn't because I was knocking on his door asking for money. His wife is afraid to go downtown. I was it had to be a roundtable with business owners from downtown. And they all are frustrated because they were not listened to during that meeting. They had all these stories to come forward. So I went to their businesses after the meeting and I spoke with them and they they relayed those stories to me. Alderman Baines has been beating this drum for months and months, speaking on behalf of the business owners downtown. They are losing their income this year. They're down about 4 percent. The Elm Street businesses and Sam Barnes has brought forward different solutions to this. And they were knocked aside. He was not listened to and they were not. Those audiences were not put in place.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig, your response?

Joyce Craig:
Yes, I do believe that there's too dark of a picture being painted of Manchester. We certainly have our challenges, but we've made progress on those challenges. And these are significantly complex issues that are not going to be solved overnight. And to date, I have not heard anything but complaints about these issues. What is what's the plan? I mean, we do have a plan in place and we are working toward resolution. And this has been an approach based on teamwork that has encompassed the Chamber of Commerce, local business owners, hospitals, nonprofits, everybody at the table. We've put a plan together. We've hired someone who's focused on homelessness. We've made progress on increasing outreach and increasing patrol downtown to make people feel safe and ensure that they are safe. And and so, you know, I'm I'm not one to say we don't have our challenges. We do, but we're making progress. And I feel confident that we will continue if we work together.

Victoria Sullivan:
There was a question in there for me about what's the plan. So we have detailed plans on our issues on our website. Victoria Silva from our dot com, they're all laid out here. But one of them is let the businesses use their sidewalks year round. Right now, they have control of it from April to October. Tim Baines brought forward an ordinance asking for it to be year round and he was told no. We need to support our police in actually enforcing those ordinances. And we also need to work on our communication between our really our police and our citizens so that we rebuild that trust between them. Because if these policemen are members of our community, people will feel more obligated to go to them, more comfortable to go to them and tell them when they have problems, situations they need to deal with.

Joyce Craig:
There is an ordinance in place that allows business owners on Elm Street to use their sidewalk year round. That's why I said we didn't need to make any changes. If you'll notice right now, there are still businesses that have their tables and chairs on Elm Street because they legally can. There was no. Need to change any ordinance. And second, I believe our police officers have done an amazing job forming relationships with our community, and we have consistently stressed that if you see something that somebody that's breaking the law call the police. Which is why we have seen an increase in call volume and why we are hiring more police officers and profiling.

Paul Feely:
Mayor Craig. Crime is down overall in Manchester, according to police data, but homicides and aggravated assaults have risen. What's your plan to reverse the tide of those two things?

Joyce Craig:
Thank you. So you're right, crime overall is down, but we are seeing an increase in the other two items as we are through the entire state. We have heard the attorney general say that this year may be a record year in terms of homicide throughout the state, which is extremely unfortunate. One homicide is one too many in my mind. So, again, I have consistently worked closely with Chief Capano and with the board of Mayor and Aldermen. Chief Capano and I worked to hire five additional officers thing at the same budget that they were with the board of mayor and Aldermen. We approved hiring an additional 10 police officers. We in my budget have funded police body cameras, which will be important, and we have increased patrol throughout our city and in our downtown. The police department uses information when people call in for data and they base that data on where they're going to be throughout the city. So it's critical that, again, that when individuals are encountering a situation where anyone is breaking the law that they call the police representatives.

Peter Biello:
Victoria Sullivan, a minute to respond.

Victoria Sullivan:
I just want to clarify one thing that that once was not a place for year round. That's why Tim brought it forward. But throughout that, when I'm talking to people that are out there, a lot of folks have given up calling the police because the response time is so long. I had someone that I spoke with just before I came here who was being assaulted and called 9-1-1 and the police didn't show up for eight hours, luckily hurt her neighbor was able to help her. So I agree that we need to have better patrolling. This wasn't one of the what they would call the hotspot neighborhoods. And a lot of folks feel like the the areas on the outskirts are being neglected now because so much is happening in these hotspot areas. So although we know that that's a trouble area, we can't ignore the people on the outside because we've got stuff that's happening all throughout the city now. We had a murder. And the north end, we've got people that are being robbed. And this, you know, the outskirts of the city, in the north and in the south. And that used to be sort of, you know, crime free. So we need to, again, build those relationships with our officers who are doing such hard work out there and make sure people feel comfortable going to them and making sure that our response time is what it needs to be to keep the people safe.

Peter Biello:
30 seconds to respond.

Joyce Craig:
Thank you. A big part of what Manchester Police Department does is community policing. They build relationships with families, with kids, with individuals. And people know our police officers by name. And when you go on ride alongs with our police officers, they know people by names. So to say that our police department does not and has not built relationships with our community, I find I'm flabbergasted by it, quite frankly. Let's move on. We have one more question related to crime.

Paul Feely:
I did want to get each of your thoughts on the new bail reform law. Police Chief Carla Capano has raised concerns about the impact. Representative Sullivan, you first. What needs to be done here?

Victoria Sullivan:
First, just to clarify, I did not say there. Police are not building relationships. I did say that we need to concentrate more heavily on those community relationships, especially with our children and our police. Obviously, you know, the it's big it's been called the catch release law that's in place now. And I actually started meeting with legislators back in April when this started to be a problem. We could see in the paper things were happening. You could see that people were being released over and over again and short periods of time. So I met with the governor and he's working right now with the legislature to make sure that we can up we can make changes to that. Parts of it have been repealed. A second part of it that was repealed doesn't go into effect until November of twenty 20th.

Victoria Sullivan:
So I believe that will be shifted closer in this legislative session session. It will be an early bill. We need we need reform when it comes to our bell system. But we went too far on this and that wasn't a checks and balances in place for the people that want to do harm when they're released.

Peter Biello:
And just a quick follow up. What specific check and balance would you advocate for?

Victoria Sullivan:
Well, there was a committee in place that would decide whether this person. So right now, for people that don't know, we tend to talk about things. I'll give you the background on them. Sometimes if someone is considered that they can't pay the bail, they've been released without having to pay bail on their own personal cognizance, as what happened in some cases is people didn't show up for their court dates and there weren't any replication repercussions put in place for repeat offenders. So we would have to make sure, like if this was a you know, this is this is your one chance to go. And if you don't show if your court date or if it happens again, you lose that privilege.

Peter Biello:
We wanted to give Craig 60 seconds to respond.

Joyce Craig:
Thank you. I believe in the original intent of bail reform. If someone who commits a non-violent crime and. And not does not have the money to get out of jail. They should not be held. However, what we are finding is individuals who do commit violent crimes are being released. And I do have a problem with that. And I agree with Chief Capano specifically what I believe needs to happen and what we have been working with our legislators. Chief Capano myself and with our legislators on our better defining when someone is a danger to themselves or a danger to others. And I also believe that training plays a big role in this. So there's consistent enforcement of what the bail reform laws are among judges and bail commissioners.

Peter Biello:
You are listening to a live debate between candidates for mayor of Manchester. Incumbent Joyce Creg and Challenger and former state representative Victoria Sullivan. I'm Peter Biello of NHPR with Paul Feeley, reporter for the Union Leader. We're going to take a short break, but when we return, we will ask the candidates to address a variety of issues, including education and the budget. This NHPR. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
Welcome back to this live debate between two candidates running for mayor of Manchester. Former State Representative Victoria Sullivan and incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig. I'm Peter Biello.

Paul Feely:
And I'm Paul Feeley. We'll start this part of the debate with a discussion on education.

Peter Biello:
The Manchester School District is receiving an additional $15 million in state funding over the next two years as part of a state budget deal. Mr. Craig, what do you think the district should prioritize when spending these funds?

Joyce Craig:
First of all, I'd like to thank the governor and the legislature for ensuring that Manchester School District receives as funding is much needed. And again, I appreciate all of the work that was done to ensure that this happens. We have been lacking in curriculum in our school district. So there's a desperate need. This year we were able to fund math curriculum.

Joyce Craig:
Next year, I believe we need to purchase and move forward with language arts curriculum and along with that professional development to ensure that both our students and our teachers are best prepared. But the curriculum needs go down the line because our district has not been able to afford new curriculum. So it's a social studies, it's science. Our superintendent just put a plan together. And I believe that this funding will help us move forward with those items which are critical to the success of our students when they graduate.

Peter Biello:
Same question to you, Representative Sullivan. What should the Manchester School District prioritize when spending the 15 million dollars in funding from the state?

Victoria Sullivan:
Yes. So I've ended calling for a district wide curriculum for eight years. We have a transient population and our students, especially our elementary still school students. And I had been asking for a curriculum that so if a child left Beech Street School because their parents moved and they were going to another elementary school, they wouldn't miss a beat in their education.

Victoria Sullivan:
Although we do have a math program that's going into place. It's a pilot program, and it won't be for all of our schools. There'll be two schools that it won't have this year and hopefully they will have it next year. But still, it is still a Common Core based math program, which a lot of parents have already spoken up against. We've got Singapore math, which is easy for parents to follow along with and to help their children with this program is actually according to the school board members I've spoken with. It's going to be an Internet based program. So when we're looking for education, equality, and we've got students that don't have computers in their home or access to things like that, they won't be on the same playing field. I would like to see a math textbook now and in the hands of every child in our district. And so that parents can help them with their math, with their schooling to become a better a larger part of their children's education.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig. 30 seconds.

Joyce Craig:
Thank you. The math curriculum that was adopted this year is a is a K through eight math curriculum that is being rolled out, period. It's being done. And all of us would love a district wide curriculum on every level. But we haven't been able to do that because we haven't had the funds to do so. And when I look at why, it's because we've seen significant downshifting from the state that we've had to pick up on. So, you know, when we look at what Miss Sullivan has done as a representative, she voted against a $4000000 tax relief that we could have property tax relief that we would have received in the city of Manchester. She voted against full day kindergarten the first time it came around, which would have meant two million dollars to the district. And she voted to continue with cutting stabilization by five hundred thousand dollars a year. So, again, we all wanted and we all want curriculum throughout our district. But it comes down to dollars and cents. And now, thankfully, we're in a place where we can do it.

Peter Biello:
Thirty seconds...

Victoria Sullivan:
Thank you very much. I'm going to need more than 30 seconds. So for the property tax relief, what the mayor is talking about is the the pension plan. So every time there's a change in the legislation, legislators, they want to put the percentage back up to the state and then then down shift it back down to the city. It's not fair to taxpayers. It's not fair to the people that want those pensions. It was voted down because the majority of people felt that way. We want to keep it where it's at so that we know what we're paying and we can. Are the pensions that we've already promised our employees when it comes to the stabilization. We had a deal that we would wait to vote on that until there was we were piece mealing together what we were going to do for funding for the for the state. And we wanted to make sure that we had all the pieces together. And it was an agreement that we made as a committee to make sure that we had the proper funding coming forward. There was one other thing that she had asked me about that I want to answer and I can't recall. I didn't.

Peter Biello:
Well, let me put a pointed question to you, because in here, Craig said that the the exact kind of citywide curriculum that you were calling for, the money is not there for that. Do you disagree? And if so, where is the money?

Victoria Sullivan:
Well, I think that money that we just got from the state would be a great start, but it should also be in our budget where we're going forward. It can't be something we wait for. The money comes down to the state. This is the most important part of our education is our curriculum. Well, the other part was the kindergarten. So I did vote against the kindergarten in the beginning because you put in an all day kindergarten with the rigors that were attached to it was not good for the families. I put an amendment that allowed parents to choose if they wanted, have taken a guardian for their child within the same district that would offer full day that passed. And that was the best thing. The children and for the families. And then I went and I put in a bill for play based kindergarten, which changed the rigors of that, changed the curriculum, and that's being copied around the country.

Peter Biello:
Now, OK, 30 seconds from Mayor Craig.

Joyce Craig:
With that the district, lost two million dollars. I just want to make a point. I don't believe the most important part of education is curriculum. I believe the most important part for education is a teacher in the classroom and reasonable class sizes for that teacher. And they do need the resources. But we have been so financially strapped in our school district that we've had to make those choices. And to the to the school board at large, it's been more important for us to have teachers in our classroom and try to get them the resources they need, whether it's copying or getting them off the Internet, then making a huge purchase with curriculum. That's been the past. But now with this money from the state, we are in a better position.

Peter Biello:
Ok. Representative Sullivan, what do you think is the single biggest challenge facing Manchester schools?

Victoria Sullivan:
I think it's currently the dysfunction of the school board. And I just want to reiterate that we did not lose million dollars that bill went through with the keynote. It was funded by Keno. We need to have a chairperson. We need to have a mayor, a leader that can actually lead the school board. It's supposed to be talking about policy and it gets into some heated personal debates and not for these meetings are running until midnight, one o'clock in the morning.

Victoria Sullivan:
That isn't leadership. We need to have somebody that control those meetings. Keep it on task. Stay with the agenda and work towards what's best for the children. And we're not seeing that with this school board. If you've got a meeting that ends at midnight, 1:00 in the morning, that's not transparency. People are not waiting up to watch those those those meetings. So we need to keep them to two or three hours and we need to make sure the parents have a voice in everything that we do in education. And we need to make sure that we have a board that works with our mayor to make sure that we're bringing forward all of the best things for our students, for our teachers, for our families.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig, same question to you. What is the single biggest challenge facing Manchester schools?

Joyce Craig:
That we are focused on improving student achievement and by doing having a strategic plan in place that the school board, that the superintendent that our teachers and administrators have bought off on is critical and we have that working right now in process. So, again, everything that we do needs to be focused on improving student achievement from the day that someone walks into our school in pre-K to when they graduate straight through it. It's professional development for our teachers. It's curriculum in the classroom. It's resources for our schools. And that we have a school board that focuses on policy and a superintendent that we trust that we've hired because they're the expert. To do the job that they need to do is critical.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig, the Manchester Teachers Union has been without a contract for more than a year. As mayor, what have you been doing to help the union and school board reach a compromise?

Joyce Craig:
So right now with the school board and how it's set, it's a committee that is working with the teachers union on the contract. I keep in touch with that committee as the chairman and I meet regularly with the union. The union for the teachers, it has been too long. And I feel that common ground should have been met by now. In fact, I voted in favor of the fact finders report because I felt that that was a fair way to move forward. It was the salary requirements that the teachers put forward. There were changes in health insurance and did not include paid time off, which they consistently have said they're not willing to do. I recently, after speaking with the superintendent, suggested because the district has done this in the past, that instead of working with the committee from the school board, that negotiations go through the superintendent and an attorney. And I felt that that would be a better approach to ensure that we could come to agreement on a contract. Unfortunately, we lost that proposal by one vote.

Peter Biello:
And same question roughly to you, Representative Sullivan. If you begin the job as mayor and there is still not an agreement, what would you do as mayor to help facilitate an agreement between the union and the school board?

Victoria Sullivan:
The negotiating committee that we had did a tremendous job as a bipartisan board. They did a great job bringing forward a contract. They did a great job explaining it to everybody involved. I think when things sort of went a mess was when the mayor did try to get the superintendent involved in the negotiations. What he publicly stated very clearly was not his job and not something he wanted to do. Now that that has been removed. My understanding is that they have moved forward and that they have tentative contracts on the table right now. So letting the negotiating committees do the work that they want to do. It was reported by one the members on the school board that that was the case, letting them do what they the job that they were tasked to do, that they were entrusted to do. And going forward and letting the the teachers union and the negotiating committee do the work that that is their job to do. It's not the superintendents job to do that. He is not. He said very publicly and clearly he did not want to get involved in the politics of it all. So I'm hopeful that we have something very soon, because it's not good for the teachers, but certainly the students are the ones that lose out and we don't have a contract for the teachers.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig, you wanted to respond - 30 seconds.

Joyce Craig:
I just don't understand why we're talking in past tense. This is still going on and there's not a contract. And I have not heard that there are tentative agreements in place. So I'm not sure how Miss Sullivan would know that. You know, it's it's not. There's nothing in place right now. I do hope that we can bring resolution to this. There is money set aside to address these contracts. And I'm hopeful that resolution will happen. And maybe we just have to wait until after the elections and see what happens then with a new committee or new rules on the school board.

Peter Biello:
One more question on the subject of education. We'll start with you, Representative Sullivan. You've been a staunch advocate of charter schools and school choice. What is your vision for the role of charter schools to play in the city's education system?

Victoria Sullivan:
We already have great charter schools, public charter schools that are playing and within the city of Manchester. I firmly believe that every child should have the opportunity to seek the education that best suits them, whether it's a traditional public school or a public charter school, or if it's a private school or if it's a home school. Every parent should be part of that conversation and they should be able to choose what's best for them. Currently, our charter schools are functioning on basically 7000, just over seven thousand dollars per student, and they're doing a great job with the money they have at hand. I would love to see more school choice within our city boundaries because that only benefits our our students and our families. But it might actually entice people to want to be here for our education system, too, if they had more choice.

Peter Biello:
And Mayor Craig, same question to you. What is the role of charter schools in Manchester's education system or what should it be, rather?

Joyce Craig:
Sure. I believe that parents need to have a choice and do what's right for their students, whether it is homeschooling, charter schooling, private school, public schools. I am not in favor of taking money away from our public schools, however, and using those toward private schools. That's a big difference between Representative or Mrs. Sullivan and myself. Right now, the school district is working closely with the charter schools. We provide the busing and we provide special services when students need speech and so forth like that. And it's interesting to note, though, at Memorial High School this year, we saw the biggest increase of students coming from a charter school entering back into public schools. At Memorial High School, we saw 18 students come out of a charter school coming back to our Manchester Public Schools at Memorial High School. So I think there's there's room for both. But I think and believe that a city cannot be successful unless we have strong public schools. And I'm an ardent supporter for those. I'm a graduate of Manchester Public Schools. So are my kids. I have one there that's a sophomore. And I will continue to support public education.

Peter Biello:
You're listening to a live debate between the candidates for mayor of Manchester. And we've got another issue to talk about, and that is the budget. Paul Feely of Union Leader.

Paul Feely:
Mayor Craig, earlier this year, the aldermen voted to override the city's tax cap to approve a budget. And you sign that budget. This is a tax cap approved by the voters meant to limit annual increases in spending. Mayor Craig, you could have chosen to veto this budget. And are your campaign Web site, you pledge that you will respect the tax code. Why didn't you veto it?

Joyce Craig:
Well, the budgets that I have presented have met the tax cap, and that's what I've done as a mayor. And that's what any mayor has to do in the city of Manchester. The alderman did come forward. They had 10 aldermen which made their vote veto proof. The budget they put forward has allowed us to put funding aside to address the teachers contract. It's also allowed us to hire 10 additional police officers. So what they did put forward was needed in the city of Manchester. But again, I think it's important to note that downshifting that we have seen to the city, from the state that Mrs. Sullivan has played an active role in, and we've been forced on the local taxpayer perspective to pick that up. And that's not acceptable. I will continue to put forward budgets that meet the tax cap, the funding from the state that has come forward, both to the city and the school district will help us help us with much needed efforts that we need to move forward with.

Victoria Sullivan:
I'm dying to see the fact-checked that happens after this debate because there are so many things that are that are being misconstrued here. I'd never voted to downshift money to art to our city. In fact, I actually went against my own party on many occasions for it to fight against the budget if I didn't think it was fiscally conservative enough and fair enough to our city taxpayers. This current mayor, when she served on her on the previous boards in our city, voted for a 6 4 tax increases six times. So I am known as a fiscal conservative. I'll stand by that record. And when it comes to, you know, you talked about taxes and education. Those aren't the school's taxes. Those are still the people's taxes. And the taxpayers deserve to put that money where they need to. What was the question? Just.

Paul Feely:
It was based on - will you respect the tax cap.

Victoria Sullivan:
I will absolutely 100 percent respect the tax cap. There's also a bill that's in right now with we actually have a we're voting on members of this school charter commission. And within that there is a possibility to have their own taxing authority if that's what they choose to do. And I will tell you that I would never support the school district having its own taxing authority.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig, did you want 30 seconds?

Joyce Craig:
I do. So I have actively been working with other entities to ensure that we have funding in our city so as not to affect the taxes. We own two properties in Manchester. I don't want to pay more in taxes either. I worked with a college and university system and we got a ten point five million dollar grant into the school district. That's not providing additional services to our students. We have worked on public private partnerships that are working within our city so as not to increase taxes, but we're able to make progress from a strategic planning perspective.

Peter Biello:
30 seconds, Representative Sullivan.

Victoria Sullivan:
Thank you. And yet the tax cap was overridden yet again. And we're talking about the homeless population. And I'm down there now talking to people in the trailers that are living in tents. Every time we override the tax gap, property and tax property taxes go up. Every time property taxes go up, that is handed off to the renters and the people that are living paycheck to paycheck and our elderly who cannot get more money from anywhere. They're living on a fixed income. And it hurts all of us in our city, but especially the most vulnerable. And with the homeless population that we are struggling with right now is that this is the time that we should have honored that tax cap. And like I said, I promise I will honor that every single budget season.

Peter Biello:
Your position on that? Very clear. No. Thank you very much. At last on this, before we move on to another question.

Joyce Craig:
As mayor, I will present a budget at the tax cap. It's important to note whether it's a Republican or Democratic mayor. If there are 10 votes which happened under a Republican mayor, the budget is overridden. I just want to make a couple of points. As a representative, Miss Sullivan voted against affordable housing and against transitional housing. She also voted in favor of doubling a security deposit for renters. So her votes that are public in Concord are go specifically against what she's speaking about today. And I really think it's important that people do fact check.

Victoria Sullivan:
I do, too. So I that that came up last debate. So I did research it. And on the original bill for that housing bill, I did vote against it, as did many other people, which is why it went back to where we ended up and end up gone to a committee of conference, which if people don't know how the legislation works, if the House changes it or if the Senate changes it, it has to go to a committee of conference where both houses agree on it. And in the end, I did vote for when it was a better bill, when it was a belet bill that served the purpose. I never voted for a bill based on title. The devil is in the details and some of these bills might sound good by name. But when you look into what they actually do, you have to ask as a legislator if it's going to serve the purpose of the intent. And it often doesn't until we get to a committee of conference and then we can vote on it at final time.

Paul Feely:
Representative Sullivan, this marks the fourth straight year aldermen have voted to override the tax code. So spending beyond the limit is not a new issue for the city. You've criticized the mayor for saying this budget, but what specific areas would you cut to ensure the budget comes in under the tax code?

Victoria Sullivan:
First of all, I would be working would be advocating to make the school district. It's a department instead of a district. We could cut duplicative costs. There are lawyers and other maintenance fees right now. We charge back to the city from the school department. So that would free up money in the school budget. But we need to pry it, prioritize our spending. Right now, we need to go to every department and say what's the best you can do? And not just take that the department budget from last year and add a little bit to it for the next year. We need to actually go through with technology and other resources that we have in our hands. We should be going through budgets every year and ask, you know, to sort of I've seen it in some of the departments, you know, Health and Human Services in Manchester that actually did a really good job at this. And she went back in and she reorganized. She restructured her department. And we should be doing that throughout the cities so that we can make sure that we're being the most efficient with our city's tax dollars.

Peter Biello:
Just a quick follow up on that. So you are suggesting you've not named a cut, but you have named some reorganization techniques. Is that the gist of what you said? You would not cut anything. You would just reorganize?

Victoria Sullivan:
Well, by reorganizing, you would be cutting down costs and out in certain areas, especially when it comes to the school budget, to be cutting back costs because like so few, we have field costs that we get charged back from the city for. And if you were department, that wouldn't happen. We have to have our own lawyer for the ED for that school district, aside from the city lawyer. So there are cuts in there to be made by reorganizing our restructuring.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig, you have a minute for this as well.

Joyce Craig:
Well, thank you. It has been shown that the school district becoming a department within the city is not cost effective, even just looking at the attorneys. You know, we have domestic violence attorneys. We have prosecutors in the city. That's. Very different than an attorney focused on school district issues, so it may seem on the surface that that there are consistencies, but they're very, very different in terms of focus of the jobs. And I can tell you, because I've been through this twice, that our department heads, when they go through the budget process, look very closely at what has been spent and what they can do to make sure that they are being as cost effective as possible when they get into the next budget cycle. So, for example, with the highway department public works, we are going to automated trash pickup. And and so we're taking a group of employees who used to work on the trucks and they're going to be focused on neighborhood quality of life issues. They're to be working with the police department as well, focused on neighborhoods to to address needs within certain areas. The Health Department, the highway department, the police and fire, everybody in the district doesn't just say, OK, I'm going to increase by 2 percent. It's not how it happens.

Peter Biello:
So just to be clear for you as well, there is no single line item that you would have to say this has to go. We have to cut this speak to to stay under the tax cap. So I did present a budget that was under the tax gap. That's. But let's let's let's say going forward, if you had to cut something, is there something that you think needs to be cut?

Joyce Craig:
I don't I you know, we need to make sure that we are putting forward a budget that best meets the needs of the community. And when I do speak to individuals within our community and that data shows, you know, we need to make sure our schools are funded. Our first responders are funded. People want good roads. And that's what my budget did.

Peter Biello:
You're listening to a live debate between candidates for mayor of Manchester, incumbent Joyce Craig and Challenger and former state representative Victoria Sullivan. I'm Peter Biello of NHPR with Paul Feely, reporter for the Union Leader. And we're going to take a short break. But when we return, we will ask the candidates to address a variety of other issues, including business and economic development and health related issues. This is an NHPR. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
Welcome back to this live debate between the two candidates running for mayor of Manchester, former State Representative Victoria Sullivan and incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig. I'm Peter Biello.

Paul Feely:
And I'm Paul Feeley. We'll start this part of the debate with a discussion of the city's economy. Mayor Craig Manchester is known for the millions in technology companies that occupy from many former mills. If re-elected, what would you do to invite businesses to Manchester and encourage business growth and development outside the millyard?

Joyce Craig:
So that's a great question. And I feel that we've made significant progress in economic development over the last two years. We have partner I've partnered with the chamber to ensure that we are working together and we have businesses working with us so that the city is friendly and encouraging new business to come to Manchester. I spearheaded a build grant which is $25 million investment federal and grant opportunity that will focus on the South Commercial South Elm Street area of the city. It will focus on transportation, on economic development and a transportation hub. I've worked to expand the seventy-nine E opportunity in the Valley Street area of the city again to encourage more investment in that part of the city so that there is a tax benefit to individuals. We see new restaurants. We have a new t shirt store opening on Hanover Street soon. We had the rollout of Goldman Sachs, 10000 small businesses and we're seeing the first FedEx bot trial in Manchester and we will continue to do programs like that.

Peter Biello:
Representative Sullivan,.

Victoria Sullivan:
Thank you. So when it comes to inviting tech businesses here and making them want to be here, we need to go back to our our taxes. Right. So every time we override the tax gap, which we did again and this this mayor praised Dan O'Neill for his tax cap busting budget, by the way, it increases the property taxes and then businesses will go just outside the city because it's transportation is easier there. There's parking there. And if we really want people to come here and stay here, work, care, play here, we need to concentrate on what's going on downtown and look at the crime that's down there. I've had we've had restaurants closed downtown. I've had businesses come to me and say they can't get their properties rented because when they bring people downtown and they see people sleeping on the streets and what's going on, they don't want to be here. We have people that aren't utilizing the businesses that we currently have because of what's going on. And I had a mom come contact me because she had brought her daughters to the Palace Theater and she said, we won't be back. The show was wonderful. But what I had to explain to my daughters on the way to there and back to our car was not made the whole experience a negative experience for us.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig, 30 seconds.

Joyce Craig:
So facts, right. The Palace Theatre has seen the most attendance in history this year. Another fact is that we have seen $250 million in new private investment and economic development in the city of Manchester. We have a Rex Theater that's opening on the 30th of October. What once a vacated building, dilapidated building, now a thriving 300 seat entertainment venue, new restaurants, new stores. Anecdotal information isn't fact, but the facts are that what I just stated and it's important we have our challenges. I admit we have our challenges, but we are doing well on an economic development perspective to follow up on what Representative Sullivan had said.

Peter Biello:
I mean, that is that is a quality of life issue that she is describing. To what extent do you feel quality of life issues like the one she is describing is influencing the economic climate in Manchester.

Joyce Craig:
Quality of life issues are very important and we have taken steps to address them by increasing patrol in our downtown and throughout our city. We are working on doing an assessment of lights in our downtown as well, which I think are very important. And it's it's critical that we address these issues, but we can't continue to focus on the negative and expect to have a thriving community. We are doing both right now in the city and it's based on teamwork with businesses, the chamber and others working together to address the quality of life issues, but also encouraging people to be downtown.

Peter Biello:
Representative Sullivan.

Victoria Sullivan:
Yeah. Thank you. And I think that there's the stark difference that people are going to take from this debate today and end all the debates leading up to this is that the facts are that people do not feel safe and comfortable downtown and that businesses downtown are suffering to see that a mom was concerned for her child's safety and call that anecdotal. It just shows how much this mayor's dismissing the concerns of the people that are out there, the businesses. And I start in that business meeting where people came to be heard and they were not heard. I have people calling me saying that they went to the mayor and they were hurt. Their issues were not addressed. And this is the difference between us. I am out there talking to people all the time and I will address their concerns. And that little anecdote to me was very troubling because as a mom, I want to feel safe downtown with my children.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig.

Joyce Craig:
I totally agree with that. I'm not dismissing it. I just feel like we cannot ignore the facts. And for Miss Sullivan to say this information when she chose to have her campaign office downtown. You heard her earlier on this debate. She chose to have an event downtown. If people are really not feeling safe and comfortable in our downtown, why is she encouraging people to be down there? It doesn't make sense. We're working hard to address these issues. I've had office hours throughout the city and over 20 times and I'm out and about in this community. I pride myself on customer service and listening to the residents of the city. And I appreciate the feedback that we've received and I appreciate the collaboration that we are seeing in our city.

Peter Biello:
A few more issues to get through.

Victoria Sullivan:
I want to just ask. So I. Yep. I did not have my children with me. I have not brought them downtown with me for a while. It is not a safe feeling down there. And this isn't anecdotal. I have people coming to me saying that they do not feel safe down there all of all of the time. And I did have to walk by five homeless people before I got to my destination on that night.

Paul Feely:
Let's move to the topic of immigration. Mayor Craig, you said to NHP Bar in 2017 after announcing your bid for mayor that you didn't think local police should be checking immigration status and that immigration law is a federal issue. Do you still feel this way?

Joyce Craig:
I do. I absolutely do. And that's how Chief Capano. That's what they are doing in the city of Manchester. We are a welcoming city. And I agree with the approach that our Manchester Police Department is taking.

Peter Biello:
Representative Sullivan, your thoughts?

Victoria Sullivan:
Yeah, I was on the way in here listening to you too. Actually, I have been here station and they were talking about ice and what's been going on with it. The president was speaking about that today. And I think we need to support ICE everywhere. We've got an enormous drug problem in this city. And it's because we get drugs that come over from from Mexico and we need to support ICE. We need to make sure people are coming here legally. We are a country of immigrants. And I've met so many people in our Manchester's immigrant community who are frustrated by the fact that they did all the right things to get into this country and they see other people's scars around it. We need to respect the process. We need to respect what their families went through, what our families went through, and make sure that people are in this country legally and support those ones that come here. I give them every resource they can to be the best community members that they can be.

Paul Feely:
Representative Sullivan, the fact is Manchester is becoming a more diverse city each year. What's your plan for making the city welcoming for new immigrants and refugees?

Victoria Sullivan:
I think it's always been welcoming to immigrants and refugees. Like I said, I'm down there and I'm talking to people from all nationalities there that are now here. And the children. I had a book drive this summer that was specifically for children in immigrant communities. And a lot of folks around the city donated books from their own libraries that we could bring to them. And we had reading time with them when we spent time with them. I think the most important thing we can do is welcome their parents, because I know that when it comes to the school district, they're culturally a lot of folks don't feel connected to the school district. It's just not the way that it was in their country. And now that they're here, we need to make sure that we engage them. Welcome on. Let them know they're welcome to be a part of it. But more importantly, that how important it is for them to be a part of it and participate in their children's education.

Victoria Sullivan:
I really feel like that's that's the best way that we can do it, because once parents are part of that process, kids will take a stronger stance on their own education, realize how valuable it is. Once the parents are paying attention to it, but the parents can also get resources. There are schools that way and get stronger and there in their English speaking and connections for work.

Peter Biello:
Mayor Craig.

Joyce Craig:
Thank you. I actually, on an ongoing basis, meet with a commission of new Americans in Manchester. And so I'm able to listen to their concerns and we're able to work together to address those concerns. So when it does come to education, we talk about how parents can have a better and bigger part in their children's education. What are the needs of new Americans? How can we ensure that they are welcomed? I meet often with the International Institute as well, but I think it's important for the leader of the city to encourage and communicate with the nonprofits and with the individuals in this community and work together to address their concerns in a way that is workable and gaining results.

Peter Biello:
Really quickly before we get into closing statements. I want to ask each of you we'll start with you, Mayor Craig. What is an experience you've had either professionally or personally that has made you a better mayor? Please be specific.

Joyce Craig:
That's a great question. I think that when I think back through my career, career, when I was working in Boston, I was laid off and, you know, I was working hard at an advertising agency and we lost a new account. So many of us were let go. And I was put in a position where I needed to pay rent.

Joyce Craig:
I had other payments and I really had to think about how to get through this process. So I understand through that work experience or through that experience what others when they are in a traumatic or stressful or situation and can empathize with that. Because I've been through it myself. And I think that's something that really has helped me in this position.

Peter Biello:
Victoria Sullivan

Victoria Sullivan:
Thank you. So I will tell you that running from air has forever changed me. Being out with people, with the business owners, but mostly being out with the kids and listening to how they see our city.

Victoria Sullivan:
And when they talk to me about how they're scared to go to the park because of the homeless people out there, they want help for their parents who are suffering from addiction that they don't have and see the trauma these kids have been going through. When I go to the park and I talk to the people, they're homeless out there and they tell me their stories or when I'm in the trails. I met a woman who was just in between apartments because she couldn't afford to make rent the next time out. Those are the things that changed me. They've made the city a a bigger part of who I am. And there's no going back from that once you see that. I will be an out there. America's like I am now. And I'll still be in the parks and I'll still be talking to people and all be able commissions and studies. For me, it will be about what's actually going on with the people on a day to day basis in their homes and where they're at.

Peter Biello:
Well, this has been a debate between the two candidates for mayor of Manchester, incumbent Joyce Craig and challenger Victoria Sullivan. Thank you both for being on this debate today. We really appreciate it. Thanks also to our partner in this debate, the New Hampshire Union Leader and Paul Feely for being here. Paul, thank you very much for being here. The engineer for this broadcast is Emily Quirk. Our program manager is Michael Brindley. Our news director is Dan Barrick. NHPR reporter Sarah Gibson assisted with this broadcast. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening.

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