Portsmouth Herald Candidate Questionnaire Response

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in other-stories | 0 comments

Name: Stefany Shaheen

Address: 77 South Street

Age: 39

Occupation: Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of a small business

Education: M.P.A. from Harvard University and B.A. from Fairfield University

Civic Experience: I was honored to serve as the National Chair for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress and I continue to sit on the Foundation’s Advocacy Committee. I worked with the Seacoast Early Learning Alliance to create a system of shared services that enabled childcare centers throughout the seacoast to operate with greater efficiency. In 2006, Governor Lynch appointed me to serve on the New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Women and I was later appointed to be Chair by the Members of the Commission. On the Seacoast, I have volunteered for several nonprofits organizations including serving on the Board of the Seacoast Repertory Theatre.

1.) What is your solution to the current parking shortage in downtown?

It is essential that we address the current parking deficit not only for the business community and visitors, but most importantly for residents—many of whom do not come into town because of the parking shortage. Given the critical need for additional parking spaces downtown, we must consider every potential municipal and private location. We should also push more aggressively to obtain the federal McIntyre Building and ensure that parking is an integral part of any redevelopment plan for the building. Finally, we should promote existing satellite parking locations and identify other satellite options with adequate shuttle service.

2.) Do you support the concepts of Form Based Zoning as a way to encourage responsible development? If yes, explain why? If not, how would you address downtown development?

Form-based zoning holds promise as a means for approaching development and redevelopment in Portsmouth’s historic district. This approach also has the potential to prevent the construction of buildings that are inappropriate in size, scale and appearance for the area. We do not currently have a specific proposal to consider. It will be important for the community to carefully evaluate and understand the implications of this approach over the current zoning ordinances. Conceptually, I support formed-based zoning as it has the potential to address issues related to the character of the buildings in town, including height, volume, scale, massing and design.

3.) Do you feel the city has enough public transportation? If not, what kind of services are we lacking?

Portsmouth does not have enough public transportation and the transportation that we do have is inadequately publicized. An evaluation of existing bus routes indicates that it could take as much as three times longer to get to a destination by bus than it would by car. To address these limitations, I would suggest we take several steps: 1. Expand trolley and shuttle service as a way to connect neighborhoods to downtown. 2. Publicize current bus and trolley routes. 3. Continue implementation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. 4. Add bike racks. 5. Work with bus service providers to add routes where appropriate.

4.) Give us your philosophy on the budget and what your priorities are when it comes to funding education and public safety?

Ensuring public safety and strong schools are two essential responsibilities of city government. As a parent of four children attending Portsmouth public schools, I know how important it is for our schools to continue building on success. Given the public safety demands placed on the city by the approximately 40,000 visitors who travel here each day, exploring ways to offset expenses related to public safety will be critical. I have a successful track record of helping organizations operate more efficiently and this experience will be valuable because residents cannot afford for taxes to increase at a rate faster than inflation.

5.) Do you support extending last call for bars in Portsmouth until 2 a.m.? Why or why not?

This decision requires evaluating the trade off between economic benefits and public safety. The limited economic benefit relative to serious safety concerns compels me to keep last call to 1:00am. As demonstrated in police logs and the terrible incident at The Page, trouble often happens after bars close. Extending last call would require the police department to change shift schedules to prepare for potential arrests and bookings after bars close. Portsmouth is a destination for many and will continue to be even if last call is at 1:00am. Protecting a peaceful environment for those who call Portsmouth home is essential.

6.) Where do you think the city should build a senior center and why?

As a community we must create more opportunities for our seniors. I have heard from many who express the need for a place to come together. These same seniors also share their concerns about the risk of having to leave Portsmouth if taxes and living expenses continue to rise. The Blue Ribbon Senior Committee is considering all viable locations for a senior center and it is important for this work to continue. The Doble U.S. Army Reserve Center is one potential location because it may be re-purposed in a high quality, cost effective way and done so quickly.

7.) What is your overall position on overtime wages?

When my daughter needed to be rushed to the hospital, I was grateful that the ambulance arrived quickly. Emergency readiness requires careful management of staffing levels. Finding the balance between paying overtime wages and hiring new people is a delicate one. Running a small business, I understand the financial implications of having to hire another employee or rely on the same team to give more when necessary. Often, the cost of overtime is less than the cost of training and making a new hire, but that calculation must be made in context of keeping the public safe.

8.) With many union contracts expected to expire in 2014, what do you hope the city achieves through the collective bargaining process?

I’ve been involved in successful labor negotiations where management is fiscally responsible and employees feel valued. I do think it’s possible to achieve a shared sense of value through the upcoming collective bargaining process. Those who dedicate their lives to serving the public—teachers, sanitation workers, police and firefighters—should be fairly compensated. With resources stretched, the city must budget carefully. By working together, I am confident that we can provide readiness in the face of emergency, excellence in the classroom and clean streets.

9.) In what ways can the city bolster public participation and input?

Organizations like Portsmouth Listens along with the public comment period during Council meetings provide invaluable opportunities for participation and input. However, I fear that some voices are left out of the debate. The city has a responsibility to ensure that those who want to participate have the chance. If elected, I will encourage the Council to hold meetings in other public locations throughout the city and listening sessions to invite public comments on issues such as form-based zoning without the constraints of a regular meeting. Ultimately, better decisions are made when diverse perspectives are represented and many voices are heard.

10.) Identify an issue not mentioned above that you feel should be a priority in the coming years.

In 10 years, Portsmouth will celebrate its 400th birthday. Decisions we make and the work we do together will help shape Portsmouth’s future. More than any one of the choices individually, how we make these decisions will say more about what we want our future to look like and who we are as a community. We can come together to set our priorities and tackle the difficult task of defining what we want to leave behind for those who come after us. Building on our collective admiration and affection for this city, we can preserve, prepare and protect our home.

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