Wilshire looking to continue “civil” approach on Nashua Board of Aldermen
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth in an occasional series of stories based on meetings between The Telegraph editorial board and candidates for alderman-at-large.
Lori Wilshire says she stays clear of any personality clashes and political infighting on the Nashua Board of Aldermen.
“I pride myself by not dragging myself into that. It’s not fruitful to be uncivil,” Wilshire said Tuesday in an interview with The Telegraph’s editorial board.
Wilshire, an incumbent alderman-at-large seeking re-election, added that the current board is not being slowed by conflict, unlike with previous boards. She credited the board president, Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy, with “keeping things civil.”
But Wilshire stressed the city benefits when elected officials compromise. She used her relationship with Mayor Donnalee Lozeau as an example.
When asked about Lozeau’s performance, Wilshire said they agree on some issues – such as the city’s impending purchase of Pennichuck Corp. and the construction of the Broad Street Parkway – but disagree on other matters, such as the city’s use of community block grants.
Wilshire said Lozeau and she were “at odds” because she wanted to spend the majority of grant money on nonprofit organizations and the mayor didn’t support the idea. (Earlier this year, Wilshire opposed the city giving the privately owned Layton House – once an old-time hotel and now a rooming house – $27,300 in grant funding for exterior repairs.)
But Lozeau and Wilshire ultimately “struck a balance” on the funding dispersal, she said. That sort of compromise is “healthy for the city,” she said.
Wilshire is one of six candidates seeking three soon-to-open aldermen-at-large seats. Other candidates are McCarthy, fellow at-large incumbent Ben Clemons, former Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, former Ward 3 Alderman Daniel Richardson and former Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom. The election is Nov. 8.
Wilshire said she “firmly believes” the city’s bid to purchase Pennichuck and its water supply is a good deal for the city. Nashua needs only state regulatory approval to acquire Pennichuck for $157 million, in addition to accepting the company’s $60 million debt.
Once the salaries of Pennichuck’s top executives are eliminated, ratepayers will probably start seeing financial benefits by the second year of city ownership, Wilshire said. The alternative to city ownership, she said, was foreign-owned Philadelphia Suburban, which nine years ago placed a bid to buy Pennichuck.
Wilshire also backs the city’s other big project, the Broad Street Parkway. After decades of delay, the city will finally soon start construction of a two-lane thoroughfare that will cross the Nashua River and lead into the Millyard Technology Park downtown.
“Getting traffic off Library Hill is important,” Wilshire said of the easing of traffic congestion that is expected with the parkway. And opening the Millyard to attract more businesses will be vital to economic growth, she said.
Aside from the city continuing to attract companies and create local jobs, Nashua needs to get a handle on crime, Wilshire said. Crime isn’t necessarily worse, but the type of crime – like the recent fatal stabbing of a city EMT and separate brawl on Central Street – has become disturbing and affects quality of life, she said.
Wilshire objects to Lozeau cutting the Police Department overtime budget by $1 million over the past two years. Police service eventually suffers when officers can’t work beyond normal shifts, she said.
Lozeau has said police overtime can be cut with the department being fully staffed at 179 officers. But Wilshire, in the interview, asked if officials have studied if that number is adequate for a city of Nashua’s size.
“Most people are willing to take a small tax increase to be safer,” she said of spending more on overtime.
Wilshire said she accepts most city departments having their budgets cut by 3 percent this fiscal year. (Only education and the information technology departments stayed at level funding.)
Wilshire said she wouldn’t mind seeing education spending increase because public schools are the most important service a city can offer. She was a product of Nashua schools, as were her children and now her grandchildren.
“I don’t mean the sky’s the limit,” Wilshire said of a school budget. But “as much as needed … Whatever it takes to deliver an adequate education.”
Wilshire said educators do a “good job,” adding they “can only do so much with limited” funding. She said school officials should look at revamping the curriculum to meet the needs of all students.
As with Clemons and McCarthy, Wilshire said the city has missed out on large public attractions such as Manchester’s Verizon Center.
Nashua should look at revamping Keefe Auditorium and Court Street Theater to improve the downtown arts scene and attract people, Wilshire said. She also supports a return of music concerts at Holman Stadium, saying neighbors who complained about noise should recognize they live next to a stadium.
Wilshire added that Nashua and state legislators should push harder for commuter rail from here to Boston. If needed, a rail station should be built in Tyngsborough, Mass., to show doubters that it can be successful, she said.
Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out McKeon (@Telegraph_AMcK) on Twitter.