Hippo Manchester
November 3, 2005

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Publisher's Note: Down to the wire
by Jody Reese

Challenger Frank Guinta has quite a challenge before him. To beat Mayor Bob Baines he has to convince voters that Manchester has big problems. Then he has to convince voters that he is the best person to solve those problems.

But Bainesí re-election is not all but assured. How is he going to get a content electorate out to the polls? A low voter turnout favors the challenger. Baines has run a campaign based on, as he terms it, trust. Basically, if you like what has happened in the city for the past six years, he promises to keep that going. The television spot featured on Bainesí Web site seems like a commercial for the Fisher Cats and Red Sox rather than for this campaign. It doesnít even ask for your vote.

Fortunately for Baines, residents feel good about Manchester. We are proud of our city. Guinta is in an unenviable position of trying to convince voters that our pride is misplaced, that taxes are too high, crime is out of control and our schools are bad.

Making that case has been and will continue to be very hard. They just donít ring true.

Itís true taxes have increased, but not by thousands of dollars. More than that, most of our homes are worth far more money now than they were six years ago, so paying slightly more in taxes does seem reasonable ó though not fun. The sense of greater wealth from higher property values gives many of us a sense of security and makes us feel good about Manchester. More than that, half of all voters in Manchester rent and another 35 percent have a mortgage, meaning that 85 percent of voters never write a check directly to city government. The quality of city services is a much bigger issue to these voters.

If the violent crime rate has increased, itís not apparent. In a city as small as Manchester with so few violent crimes, a crime rate increase could mean there was one more crime than the year before. Residentsí personal experiences in the city do not reflect that there is a problem with crime. As far as I can tell, thereís not even much support for the mayorís crusade to make Manchester nightlife safer because so few residents are affected. Few voters regularly go to Omega, Envy or Liquid.

As for the schools, Guinta highlights the recent No Child Left Behind scores where all three Manchester high schools failed. But most voters know from the many news stories in local papers, such as the Hippo, that the No Child Left Behind tests are questionable at best and complete hooey at worst. These tests do not measure the effectiveness of a school from year to year.

This election will turn on Guintaís ability to get a group of voters angry about Manchester and convince them that he will make the necessary changes, and the mayorís ability to get people who are happy with the city out to the polls.

Neither candidate has an easy task.