“Cultural vitality and economic vitality are closely linked in Portsmouth as they are in other locales.”
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.
M. Christine Dwyer, City Council Candidate
Neighborhood: Broad Street
Occupation: Co-own RMC Research; my own work is evaluation, research and policy consultation in education, literacy and arts/culture
Education: Mount Holyoke, B.A.; University of New Hampshire, M.Ed. and additional graduate work
Relevant Experience: 5 terms on City Council; co-chair of Middle School Building committee; liaison to/Board member NH Municipal Association; other city committee/commission work: African Burying Ground, Planning Board, Legislative Committee, Workforce Housing, Sagamore-Jones planning, Police department study, Fire department study, Fees, Prescott Park Arts Festival. Also 4 years Music Hall Board chair,Currier Museum Board chair; 7 years chair of NH State Council on Arts, NH Center Nonprofits Board.
How do you think our city currently measures on the issue of workforce housing availability?
Not well—it is our most under-represented form of housing. We do well in terms of the availability of subsidized low income units but lack the “middle level” of housing options in terms of availability. Modest homes exist in a number of neighborhoods but when they sell, the price tends to exceed the middle level affordability. Neighborhood opposition has been the biggest factor in the failure thus far to achieve more workforce housing options through zoning, density bonuses, height allowances, etc.
How do you view the balance of arts & culture with business & economic growth in our city?
Cultural vitality and economic vitality are closely linked in Portsmouth as they are in other locales. Culture fuels creativity, attracts creative and entrepreneurial people, and brings economic activity. On the other hand, a certain level of economic vitality is necessary to sustain participation in cultural opportunities and to provide the philanthropic support that is necessary to advance cultural activity, especially to provide and maintain facilities. To a certain extent, “we are what we are” because of cultural investments (human and capital) that were made in our City over the past thirty years; we need to pay if forward to sustain the quality of life we enjoy. I am proud to have played many roles in the cultural development of Portsmouth and I’m pleased that many others have joined that cause.
What’s your favorite thing about the city of Portsmouth?
I love the varied architecture of the City and I’m especially a real fan of federal period architecture. I never tire of walking down favorite streets.
Does the city motto “The City of the Open Door” resonate with you — and if so, how?
It resonates with me in several ways. First, I always think of seaports as places where cultures converge, the population is diverse, and people are more tolerant—I like to think those are descriptions of Portsmouth during much of its history. Second, I think of points in our history when the “openness” was really demonstrated: during the 1905 treaty when Portsmouth hospitality kept the talks going to reach settlement; during World War II when the population doubled as people came to work at the Shipyard; in small acts of kindness from individuals to individuals. When we are at our best, the people of Portsmouth show the “open” characteristics of helpfulness, generosity, creativity, and curiosity. “City of the Open Door” is an aspirational motto.
Is our city big enough, or does it have room to grow?
We have room to grow along several dimensions: population, housing, redevelopment of our gateways such as the Route 1 ByPass and Lafayette Road. Our population is still smaller than it was during the height of Pease operations and half what it was during World War II.
If you had your way, how would our city look in 10 years? In what ways would it differ from present-day Portsmouth?
I think we will see the redesign and improvement of all of the gateways leading into the City—a boulevard off Exit 7 with parks along the water; a Route 1 ByPass and Route 1 that is bounded by more “new urbanism” design of mixed retail/residential (that’s the affordable option); the completion of all of our bridges! The Northern Tier will undoubtedly be realized as a new urban area—living, gathering, shopping, meeting spaces and the McIntyre property in a similar fashion. The people who have moved into Portsmouth in the last few years will become actively involved in civic and nonprofit endeavors, ensuring that what we have built as a community over the past thirty years can be sustained. And, like the die-hards who were never going to set foot in our new library but now practically live there….the number of vocal people who now profess so much hatred for all that has changed in Portsmouth will themselves be found taking advantage of all the amenities that success brings.