Daniel Richardson talks with Telegraph reporters and editors Thursday, October 27, 2011.
Candidate Richardson wants to change aldermen’s ‘rubber stamp’ mentality
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth in an occasional series of stories based on meetings between The Telegraph editorial board and candidates for alderman-at-large.
Daniel Richardson contends the Nashua Board of Aldermen acts as a "rubber stamp" for Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.
Richardson hears only a few aldermen asking questions before they vote, he said Thursday in an editorial board interview with The Telegraph. "It makes you wonder if they know what they're voting for," he said.
Richardson served as Ward 3 alderman for one term from 2006-07, and lost a bid for an alderman-at-large position in November 2007.
If elected Nov. 8, Richardson said he would follow his philosophy of voting against measures "if I don't have enough information to say it's right."
Richardson said he has heard that Lozeau has blocked aldermen from complete access to City Hall information. A "nuclear bomb" to an executive staff is the request of information, and if none is provided, the only course for aldermen to take is voting against the mayor's proposals until details are offered, he said.
He added later the only reason he would vote "no" would be if his "reasonable questions aren't being answered" and if a proposal is not in the benefit of residents.
Richardson points to a controversial Pennichuck land deal as an example of what he views as the board's lack of scrutiny.
Before the city reached a merger agreement last year with Pennichuck Corp., the company already had a $2.2 million purchase-and-sales agreement with a developer who wants to build 85 units of elderly housing, a project that some residents believe could harm the watershed.
Aldermen said they knew limited details about the sale of the land, known as Parcel F, as well as another agreement Pennichuck had with a developer when approving the merger agreement.
"The aldermen expressed surprise about Parcel F," Richardson said. "They didn't ask enough questions before voting on that."
For that matter, Richardson says the city didn't negotiate hard enough with Pennichuck before signing the agreement. (Only state regulatory approval is now needed for the city to acquire the company and its water utility for $152 million and an additional $60 million of Pennichuck debt.)
Richardson doesn't oppose the purchase, but said the city will be "paying for kind of a mess," in large part because most of the developable land that Pennichuck owned in Nashua has by now been sold for commercial use.
Also, he finds fault with the city using general obligation bonds to finance the acquisition. He said with the approval of bond counsel and aldermen, excess borrowed money for Pennichuck could be used for unrelated projects, which he said would be unfair to ratepayers.
Richardson also disagrees with the stated purpose of the Broad Street Parkway, the two-lane road that will cross the Nashua River from Broad Street and lead into Millyard Technology Park downtown. Major construction is expected to begin next year after aldermen last year approved borrowing $37.6 million; the city has already spent $14 million in federal funds on the project.
City officials claim the parkway will attract businesses, but Richardson says no company has yet to commit to locating in the Millyard because of the road. And seeing that parkway traffic will lead into the Tree Streets neighborhood, the road won't help relieve traffic on Library Hill, as city officials contend, he said.
A cost analysis should be performed on the Broad Street Parkway as well as any other major project, Richardson said.
"You need people who ask questions ... who challenge the status quo," he said, adding that he is a "data driven" person, whereas he hears "just a lot of talk" from many aldermen.
Richardson said with the expected continuing loss of property tax revenue because of the recession, the city needs to closely study the efficiency of services. He doesn't favor raising taxes in a recession and said he doesn't like to lay off anyone. But "when things get tough, you have to get tough," he said.
Richardson said if the city's fiscal position worsens, the privatization of services is a possibility.
But city officials also need to focus on creating jobs in Nashua, and that will be Richardson's priority if elected, he said. Aldermen and the mayor's Office of Economic Development have failed to lure companies to the city, but rather wait for them to come, he said. The economic development office needs to define which type of businesses could establish here and find those businesses, he said.
Richardson said downtown commerce will improve with the placement of businesses that offer services that can't be found at a mall. He pointed to how after buying a pair of $250 shoes, he preferred to take them to a downtown cobbler rather than buy a new pair.
Richardson is one of six candidates seeking three soon-to-open alderman-at-large seats. Other candidates are three at-large incumbents - Ben Clemons, Brian McCarthy and Lori Wilshire - and former Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess and former Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom.
In the editorial board interview, Richardson essentially endorsed Donchess. He said he looked forward to working with Donchess on the board. Even though they don't always agree, they have worked together on community issues before, he said.
Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or firstname.lastname@example.org.