Sparse crowd at Mayor’s Ward 12 Town Hall

Only five members of the public, excluding staffers and elected officials, were on hand for Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais’ Ward 12 Town Hall on Thursday night. Here’s a recap of what was discussed.

Public Safety

Ruais noted that if current trends continue, this year the city will see a 27 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths and a 14 percent reduction in opioid-related fatalities. He also noted a recent award that the Manchester Police Department won from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

A resident said that a person had been dealing drugs on a ballfield near their house, but after the Police Department was alerted to this, that person was arrested.

There were also concerns from that resident regarding people doing U-turns in their driveway on Youville Street. Again, after contacting the Department of Public Works, new signs were placed indicating that drivers cannot make U-turns in that area, reducing the number of U-turn drivers.

However, work still needs to be done. One of the residents in attendance said that their neighbors are French-Canadian and had lived in Manchester long enough to remember when Catholic mass was held on the rocks in Rock Rimmon Park, something that cannot be done now since it is not safe to be inside of at night.

Questions from Diana Spradling

Ward 12 Resident and mother of former WMUR television personality Scott Spradling asked Ruais what was his biggest surprise when he took office.

Ruais was unsure how to answer since he had a good idea what the job would be like, given that he had worked for several years in the mayor’s office under former Mayor Frank Guinta, following Guinta as he became a member of Congress. Additionally, he had extensive communication with city government in recent years working for various non-profits. He elaborated that one of the key things he’s learned about leadership is listening, and also stated that the community is willing and eager to rally around solutions.

Spradling later asked what Ruais would request from the city’s residents, to which Ruais said that he hopes that residents reach out to him with any concerns they may have. Once again, he urged all in attendance to use the See-Click-Fix app to let the city know if they see a problem like a pothole.

“I can’t fix what I don’t know is a problem,” he said.

Ruais frequently gives out his phone number to residents at events and noted that at the Ward 7 Town Hall one night earlier, a man texted him several hours later asking “what is it going to take to get my garbage picked up?” Ruais appreciated the call and dispatched the Department of Public Works to the man’s home to correct the problem, glad that the man was able to convey his concerns rather than feeling that the mayor did not care about his problems.  Other people in the audience indicated that response time from city departments has improved since his term began.

Spradling also asked about the relationship between the city and the state, to which Ruais said that he talks a lot with the Department of Health and Human Services and gets responses quickly. He also talks frequently with NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs Director Taylor Caswell and also speaks regularly with Manchester’s state legislators.

Ward 12 town hall. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

Other thoughts

The residents generally appreciated what they saw as Ruais’ collaborative approach, noting that approach during his candidate debates and wishing that national politicians could take his lead.

“Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t make them your enemy, it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said.

On that note, he was pleased with the compromises made in the recently completed budget process.

“We didn’t get sent to City Hall to cram things down people’s throats with 8-7 votes, I firmly believe we should be working together,” he said. “If you have something when someone over here is upset and someone over there is upset, I think you made a good compromise.

Residents were also impressed with his hands-on efforts to understand the jobs of city workers, something he said he did to let the workers know their efforts are appreciated thus boosting morale in addition to getting a better idea of how he can help constituents.

Ward 12 Board of School Committee member Carlos Gonzalez said that one of his tenants at a property he owns complained about a pothole, but he was concerned about reporting it, fearing that fixing the pothole would be seen as being given preferential treatment due to his role as an elected official. He was told that any resident has the right to have a pothole in the road near their home fixed.

or previous town halls, see below