Hippo Manchester
December 29, 2005

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Publisher's Note: Name that tune
by Jody Reese

One theory about why voters elected Frank Guinta mayor of Manchester last month was that they were eager for change.

Nothing wrong with that. Change can be good for a community.

However, Guinta’s margin of victory was razor-thin, so it was hardly a resounding mandate for gigantic and immediate change. And that’s important for the mayor-elect to remember as the days dwindle down to his inauguration next month.

Sure, some things about how the city operates are ripe for change. But there are things that don’t need to be changed, and it would be nice to know what Guinta’s intentions are as he prepares to take the oath.

Let’s take the city’s arts community. During the Baines administration, the mayor’s office was a tireless champion of many events and institutions that have made a big difference in the city’s quality of life. Will Guinta continue this support?

The list of Baines-backed programs is a long one. It includes the city’s annual Downtown Jazz & Blues festival, the revitalization of the Palace Theatre, the new summertime Theater in the Park program, and the city’s annual Latino festival.

All of these things have been good for Manchester, in that they’ve attracted tens of thousands of visitors to our city. An active arts and festival calendar is a crucial element of the city’s continued revival, giving Manchester a vibrancy that helps fuel the local economy. It’s good for business.

But these events don’t happen by themselves. They need the support of many parties to happen — the business community, citizens and the city government. Under Baines, the city had a tireless backer of such programs who used the power of his office to remove obstacles and lend support.

Most significantly, Baines included $75,000 in each year’s city budget to support the Palace Theatre. His mantra was that the Palace “should never go dark again,” and he meant it.

Over the years, the theater has used this money as leverage to win financial support from many other corners — support that wouldn’t have materialized if the city hadn’t put up the money in the first place.

What will happen to this support under Mayor Guinta? What will happen to plans to install underground conduits in Veterans Park to provide a safe all-weather cabling for the next summertime theater series? What will happen to the Jazz & Blues Festival, which was a Baines inspiration in the first place?

Will Guinta use the bully pulpit of the mayor’s office to support these programs, either through words or actions? Or will he claim that none of it has anything to do with him, and from now on they’re on their own?

No one expects Guinta to grab a mike and croon old standards, as Baines (a former music teacher) was willing to do at the annual jazz festival. But as mayor, he should let us know soon where he stands on encouraging and supporting events and programs that are so important to the city’s continued renaissance.

What tune will it be, Frank?