September 7, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: The idea deficit
By†Jody Reese

Mayor Frank Guinta campaigned that he was going to fix Manchesterís failing schools and its rising crime rate and decrease our taxes. Iím still waiting for just one of these things.

No concrete steps have been taken by the mayor to solve these problems. On the issue of taxes, the mayorís recent veto of a fee will mean higher property taxes. And he proposed an unrealistically tight budget that still increased spending.

On the issue of schools, no proposal has come from the mayor to increase test scores. And finally on the issue of crime, the mayor has done little to deal with the bored teens and poor neighborhoods that seem to breed crime and have caused a recent spate of public shootings.

Things, of course, are not as bad as they may seem. The schools really arenít failing (though they arenít records in academic excellence, either), taxes are increasing at a rate not much greater than inflation and crime isnít out of control, though itís higher than it should be.

The truth of the matter is that we live in a good city with great potential. For the city to achieve greatness, the leadership of this city needs to plot a course for the future and then work like a dog to make the goals a reality.

Frankly, I donít see that happening.

Take, for example, a few projects that could spur redevelopment.

Whatís happened to the JacPac land? Itís one of the most prime spots for development in the city and yet we have heard nothing about what the mayor wants to do with it. Should it be a school, an arts center, a shopping mall or a housing development?

Why are we putting a $7 million federally funded trade-school facility out in the woods at Hackett Hill? Itís great Manchester is getting the school, which will help retrain people and give youth needed trade skills. But perhaps it would have been better located downtown or along Valley Street. Maybe we could have used the highway garage on Beech and Valley streets as the location and used Gill as the sports field. Did the mayor even look into that possibility?

Whatís the status of the Pearl Street parking lot (east of Elm Street) development plan? Two years ago, Christian Silvestri was given the rights to look into putting a movie theater there. What happened?

Back to some of the mayorís own campaigned-on social issues, what steps are we taking to deal with the increases in poverty in the center city neighborhoods that seem to be the root cause of increased crime and low test scores in school?

We can blame crime on people from Massachusetts all we want, but that isnít going to do a thing to solve the problem (and it doesnít tend to be true). Itís here and itís going to get worse unless we deal with it.

What are we going to do with the kids alone for several hours after school? What are we going to do with the kids that drop out of high school in the tenth grade? Itís not as if these kids go to work for their dads on the farm.

In the end, leadership isnít about holding gripe sessions in every ward, itís about ideas. What are the mayorís ideas?


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