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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Nashua Democrat Dan Weeks wants Executive Council to keep government open, in check

By DAMIEN FISHER
Staff Writer

NASHUA – Dan Weeks wants to be an Executive Councilor who holds government accountable to the people, without falling into ideological fights over party politics.

“I simply don’t see the role of Executive Council as being an ideologue,” he said Tuesday in an editorial board meeting with the Nashua Telegraph. “I see it as being a good government watchdog.” ...

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NASHUA – Dan Weeks wants to be an Executive Councilor who holds government accountable to the people, without falling into ideological fights over party politics.

“I simply don’t see the role of Executive Council as being an ideologue,” he said Tuesday in an editorial board meeting with the Nashua Telegraph. “I see it as being a good government watchdog.”

Weeks, a Nashua Democrat, is running for the District 5 seat on the council against Republican incumbent David Wheeler. As a councilor, Weeks wants to serve as someone who makes sure the state contracts are appropriate, and as someone who makes sure the state is doing right by the taxpayer.

“I want to ensure that we’re spending money the right way,” he said.

For Weeks, that means making the right investments in Granite Staters and their futures. Top on his agenda is getting a commuter rail line to service Nashua and Manchester.

“This is about a lot more than getting some cars off the road; this is the single biggest economic development opportunity New Hampshire has faced in a generation,” he said.

The Capitol Corridor study, done by the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority, proposes millions of spending in taxpayer dollars in return for a potential of an economic boom, Weeks said.

“We haven’t seen anything like it,” he said.

The $246 million costs to start the project would be mostly paid for by federal grants and in-kind donations from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. Of the total, New Hampshire taxpayers would be required to pay $72 million. Weeks said that between a bond for the $72 million and the costs to operate the rail line, New Hampshire taxpayers would be on the hook for $10 to $11 million a year, though there are some proposals that could bring that down to $5 million, he said.

The return is estimated to be 5,600 new jobs, and hundreds of millions in development, meaning tens of millions in new tax revenue for the communities served by the rail line.

Investing in people is not all about infrastructure, though, Weeks said. He wants to see a continued investment in keeping the Medicaid expansion in place, and he wants to see the state pay up to increase staffing at the Division of Children, Youth & Families as called for in the recently released interim report.

“Government is not the solution to all of our problems, but government is absolutely part of addressing these problems,” Weeks said.

He also wants to see the state contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock for mental health services revisited, as he said the company did not disclose the impending layoffs before the contract was signed.

Weeks supports continued funding for Planned Parenthood to provide family planning services and health care. He said the state has funded Planned Parenthood for decades to provide family planning, and that the funding has gone to reduce abortions in the state. Though pro-choice, Weeks said he wants to see abortions become rare.

“As a person of faith, I very much want to make abortion obsolete,” he said.

That means continued investment in people, making sure women and families are supported, he said.

While a proposal to raise the minimum wage is unlikely to be decided by the Executive Council, Weeks supports raising wages as a way of lifting people out of poverty. He said a person earning minimum wage in Nashua would have to work 100 hours a week in order to afford a typical Gate City rent.

“That’s not right,” he said.

Ultimately, being on the council is not about pushing a particular party platform, he said, but about serving the people. That means making sure the way government operates is fair and open.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-6531 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com.