Publisher's Note: Manchester needs leadership
By Jody Reese
A recent Saturday in Concord showed the very different directions cities can take in a just a few short years. Manchester was the town that quickly turned itself around with a downtown business focus. The result was property value boom. People — lots of people — wanted to live in Manchester. All the while Concord looked down Interstate 93 with some envy, but now it’s Manchester that should envy Concord.
Last Saturday Concord was full of families, young people and baby boomers enjoying the farmers’ market, outside cafés and window shopping. The streets were busy with people and businesses are expanding; not so in Manchester.
In Manchester, as the Manchester Express reported some months ago, many downtown retail storefronts are vacant on Elm Street — many more could become vacant soon as Manchester’s Mayor Frank Guinta and the aldermen milk downtown of every last parking nickel.
Manchester has seen a rapid decline in property values, and it risks losing millions in property tax dollars because of its weakening downtown and property market.
The falling value of Manchester doesn’t seem to bother Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne, who told another local paper that he wants the population in Manchester to drop to 80,000 or 90,000 people. The result of such a flight of residents would further destroy property values (possibly as much as a 70 percent decline) and cause massive foreclosures on rental properties as landlords went bankrupt.
Unfortunately, there’s little leadership in City Hall to reverse this trend. Mayor Guinta seems to want to remake Manchester into Franklin with its property-value-destroying tax cap. If you really want to ruin Manchester, just support the tax cap.
While the news is bad, it needn’t stay that way.
Manchester is a great city with huge assets, including the Verizon Wireless Arena, the Millyard, a new hotel, a baseball stadium, wonderful restaurants, tons of entrepreneurs and an energetic populace. There are efforts to add bike paths, more mill buildings are being rehabbed and, of course, Manchester is the birthplace of your American dream.
But these assets will continue to fail to improve Manchester’s lot, if the city doesn’t have a city government intent on making the city a better place to live. Manchester needs a sense of purpose, and that can only come from its leaders in City Hall.
It can be hard on a mayor to keep spending down and still work to encourage growth, but it’s not impossible. Each decision the mayor and aldermen make should be questioned as to how it will effect the city’s quality of life, property values and the ability of business to do business. That clearly isn’t happening with parking.
More than just policy, the city needs the mayor’s leadership in the form of supportive words and involvement.
Concord has demonstrated how a town can improve its downtown and how the rest of the city benefits. Manchester once knew this.
It’s time for Manchester’s City Hall to lead again.