“In order for housing to become affordable again, we must allow developments with denser and smaller condos or apartments.”
As part of an ongoing Portsmouth City Council Candidate Q&A in my weekly PortsmouthLOVE Letter, I’ve reached out to all candidates in the 2015 City Council race with some questions. I’m including the answers of all who participated here on my website, in addition to featuring them in my weekly newsletter throughout the month of October, leading up to Election Day, November 3rd. For information on voting, visit the City of Portsmouth, NH’s website.
Jack Thorsen, City Council Candidate
Neighborhood: Richards Avenue
Occupation: Software engineer, technologist, entrepreneur
Education: BS Physics (with Electronic Engineering), Juris Doctorate
Relevant Experience: Four years Portsmouth City Council, Planning Board, Historic District Commission, Economic Development Commission, City Council Representative to the Board of Directors of the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, President of the Board of Directors of Portsmouth Public Media, and various community leadership and volunteer roles.
How do you think our city currently measures on the issue of workforce housing availability?
At one time most housing in Portsmouth was workforce housing. But, property became expensive and inaccessible to many working families, young people just starting out, and even professionals. So, unfortunately, many are forced to leave the city and move to neighboring communities. In order for housing to become affordable again, we must allow developments with denser and smaller condos or apartments. This will require some zoning changes.
How do you view the balance of arts & culture with business & economic growth in our city?
Portsmouth has a great balance of arts and culture with business and economic growth. We are very diversified in that regard. We are also a very inviting community that welcomes a wide variety of activities, so I expect to see more of each in the coming years.
What’s your favorite thing about the city of Portsmouth?
An active and engaged community. Sometimes this causes friction, but on balance I think the high level of public participation in our busy little city is awesome, and I hope we never lose that.
Does the city motto “The City of the Open Door” resonate with you — and if so, how?
Absolutely it does! From the early days of the founding of Portsmouth as a trade port, to now, people are drawn here to visit, to trade, to live, work and play. Portsmouth is a hub. It’s in our DNA. If it’s happening, it’s happening here.
Is our city big enough, or does it have room to grow?
The boundary of Portsmouth is fixed, so we cannot grow outward. But, we can grow inward, and to an extent, upward. I’d say we still have quite a bit of room to grow. Today we are looking at the North End for development. Soon, we will look to the West End. My hope is that growth will be smart, building great live and work communities, place we want to be.
If you had your way, how would our city look in 10 years? In what ways would it differ from present-day Portsmouth?
In ten years I expect to see much more development of livable areas that combine residences, commerce, work places, and fun places. Gone are the days of residence only or business only zoning. New development will likely pull together a balanced mix of uses. We will also have worked through how to support and promote ride sharing services and short term rentals. Finally, I’d like to see Portsmouth have a reputation for a place for creative people to go. Not just in the entertainment arts, but also in software, marketing, technology, literature, education, and business. Let’s see if we can make Portsmouth an intellectual as well as a commercial hot spot!