With recent incidents involving guns in the news, how would you work to curb violent crime in Manchester?
CRAIG: Keeping Manchester safe is my top priority, and I’m honored to have the endorsement of the Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association and the Association of Police Supervisors. Over the past three years, we’ve added 30 police officers, resulting in the largest complement we’ve ever had. Under the leadership of Chief Aldenberg, officer training increased from 8 to 40 hours annually, focusing on de-escalation tactics, use of non-lethal force, implicit bias, and cultural responsiveness.
With the American Rescue Plan funding, we’re implementing a violent crime reduction and prevention initiative with the Police and Health Departments — which includes increased foot patrols and addressing environmental issues in neighborhoods, funds investigative overtime and utilizing Community Health Workers to respond to non-violent check condition calls, freeing up officers to respond to more urgent matters.
Crime is down for the fifth year in row and we’re already seeing positive results from these new programs.
What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in Manchester?
CRAIG: We’re implementing long and short-term solutions for homelessness and the lack of affordable housing.
I’ve collaborated with Mayors across NH to advocate for a statewide approach, while offering strategic steps forward at the local level. I’ve fostered relationships between the city and nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations, and unhoused populations to offer mental health and medical services, provide additional shelter beds, and increase public safety measures.
We implemented outreach efforts to connect unhoused individuals with services, treatment and housing. Utilizing federal funds, we hired a Director of Homeless Initiatives to lead and coordinate the city’s efforts, which focus on the chronically homeless, community collaboration, and increasing affordable/supportive housing (learn more at www.manchesternh.gov).
We’ve allocated nearly $8 million in federal funds to increase affordable housing, provide grants to help keep seniors in their homes, and grants to landlords to renovate apartments that remain affordable.
Young professionals say Manchester needs more “starter homes” or more affordable rent prices for them to stay in the city. What will you do as mayor to address rising rent and housing costs, and how do you plan on keeping young people and people in general in Manchester?
CRAIG: Affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges facing our state. In Manchester, we’ve made great strides to increase the number of affordable housing units.
In April, we released the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Taskforce Report and have been making progress on the recommendations including updating multiple zoning regulations and establishing a Housing Commission to oversee this work and continue to focus on the housing needs of the city.
Using federal funds, we’ve allocated nearly $8 million to increase affordable housing options. We issued requests for proposals for two underutilized parking lots in downtown to build mixed-use, mixed income housing.
Manchester continues to add more high quality jobs that attract young people. We’re enhancing our parks and green spaces, expanding rail trails and bike lanes, advocating for commuter rail, and supporting the small business that make Manchester a unique and exciting place to live, work and raise a family.
Are you in favor of the school board having its own taxing authority? Why or why not?
CRAIG: I support the budgetary autonomy of the Manchester School District, as long as the Board of School Committee is held to the same rules as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen when it comes to requiring a super majority to approve a tax cap override.
Having served as a School Board member, an Alderman, and now as Mayor and Chair of the School Board, I have a unique perspective on the District budgeting process. The current process is broken, and there is lack of accountability.
Quality public schools are a top priority for our residents and businesses, and decisions regarding their funding should be made by the board that is elected to govern them, rather than a board that is less familiar.
This is how most communities across the state and country operate, and Manchester should move toward this model if we want to see lasting improvements to public education.
What is your plan to save small businesses? How do we make sure, when we come back from COVID, our local businesses are still here?
CRAIG: Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve worked to protect our local small businesses.
We established the Small Business Recovery Loan Program, making $1 million available in low-interest loans. We developed the Small Business Resiliency Grant program, which helped to retain and create jobs at over 50 small businesses. We expanded outdoor dining and streamlined the process for businesses, allowing restaurants to safely offer greater dining capacity.
Using federal American Rescue Plan funds, we allocated an additional $2 million for Small Business Grants & Programs to assist in economic recovery, expanding the eligibility and uses to include COVID-19 recovery, business planning, outdoor space improvements, employee retention and more. We’re filling the vacant Economic Development Director position and hiring a Business Liaison within the office to support our business community.
We’ve approved a commuter rail platform in downtown and adopted Manchester’s Master Plan that supports small businesses, innovation and entrepreneurship.