Portsmouth 2023 City Council candidate Joanna Kelley

Joanna Kelley

Name: Joanna Kelley

Education: Great Bay Community College

Occupation: Self-employed – Cup of Joe Cafe & Bar

Political or civic experience highlights: Founder and President – Cultivate, New England BIPOC Festival, Adviser – Business Club, Portsmouth High School. Trustee/Board member: Strawbery Banke, Seacoast African American Cultural Center, Chase Children’s Home, The Forward Foundation.

Are you working with any consultants, groups, or a slate of candidates? If yes, please disclose who you’re working with.: I am not running as a slate.

I have not hired, now or ever, any consultants.

While I have accepted local and national endorsements; I have run my own campaigns since 2019, when I first ran for council.

The people who help me with my campaign are friends and volunteers.

What is the biggest problem Portsmouth is facing and how you would solve it?: Not unlike most areas in the country, housing is one of our biggest issues. As a state we know that we are behind the ball to keep up with our growth. We need to work on getting transitional housing and entry level housing built so that we can keep and attract younger residents and families. I’m always looking for ways that we can update our zoning to do this. I think a good example is AH – by today’s zoning; it would be impossible to build.

Should the city work to create below market rate housing, and where is the best site?: Yes! Time and time again, survey after survey, election season after election season – housing is always one of the top, if not the top, concern of our residents.

We need to come to the realization that there is no “perfect location.” Any additional housing of any kind will have an impact on a neighborhood but that does not mean it doesn’t belong or that we shouldn’t do it.

If using city-owned property to lower the cost of building affordable housing then to me that’s an easy line to draw. We can no depend on the free market to create permanent below market housing. Of course, balance is key to everything in life. For an example – Sherburne school, once the school department releases that building when Robert Lister Academy is relocated, housing being built there would disrupt the softball field. It would only be logical to make sure to have a replacement field already lined up and build in a near by location. I believe that the relational field at the new skateboard park could be an amazing option.

This also leads to much needed conversations about equality in our school sports and recreation department.

Should the council continue to try to acquire the Thomas J. McIntyre federal building property?: This is a loaded question to me because it so depends on what happens with the GSA auction.

Do I think that the city should consider spending excessive funds to purchase the building? No.

If the city can acquire, without restrictions for low to no cost, then yes.

Do you support the council’s spending level on the last two budgets? If not, what’s an appropriate level?: Budget planning and fiscal accountability are top of mind for all councils. Historically we’ve seen 2-6% budget increases and I stand by the fact that this council has stayed within that line.

When discussing the major increases in staffing, which in part, grew the budget it’s worth noting that almost 75% of those jobs were in our school, police and fire departments.

I am open to criticism on handling the budget, but moreso I look for proposed solutions and opinions from the public on what they would be willing to loose to decrease cost.

Should Market Square be open to pedestrian and bike travel only?: Can Market square be made to be a pedestrian mall – absolutely.

But can and should are two very different questions. Three years ago, I would have said without a doubt, but I’ve spent a good amount of time discussing this with lots of different perspectives and now have a slightly different viewpoint.

I feel that we can find a happy middle ground. I would love to start a pilot weekend program from 5 p.m. on Friday till 5 p.m. on Sundays. Yes, there would be impacts of course, but there are work arounds that are down every day in different communities.

Ive discussed this with fire and police and both have had early support on making sure it would be done with public safety intact. There are many factors we’d have to take in account and priority giving to make sure that we are still ADA compliant and that businesses and downtown residents feel they are still about to operation normally.

How do you feel about the safety and aesthetics of outdoor dining in the city?: I have complete confidence in the rules designed and enforced by the city for the safety for diners and guests of outdoor dining.

What’s a bigger priority, building a new police station or an indoor sports arena?: Well, I don’t believe they are in competition with each other for anything other than land resources.

I would love to see the city partner with a private firm to build and manage an indoor arena without spending any city funds.

Its too early to state indefinitely that we need a new police department as they working group is just in the public engagement process. They have listed seven possible sites and one of those includes revamping the current location.

Should the council address the pace and type of development in the city? If yes, how?: I think having a work session between the Land use boards, who actually issues and oversee the new building projects and the council would be a great idea and super informative to residents.

Its important to know that a lot of fears of impact of new developments are discussed throughout the application process throughout the ZBA, planning and TAC.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there on what our local government can actually control or not. I was once someone who thought “Let’s just do a moratorium and call it a day,” but through educating myself more on the laws, I realized nothing is just that easy and if someone is saying it is – they are simply lying to you.

There are plenty of times many of us wish we could tell a developer to build a little smaller footprint, or include more affordable units, not build another bank; but the realities are the laws in New Hampshire do not allow me to dictate what a person or persons can do with their own property in more general cases.

We aren’t the Live Free or Die state for nothing.

I believe a balance is looking at development that adds to our tax base but does not create excess street to our current systems.

Does the city need to regulate overnight parking on city streets and lots by RVs and campers?: No.

Is overserving at city bars and restaurants a public safety issue?: Overconsumption of alcohol is most definitely a general public safety issue, but I’m not sure it’s a issue for the city government to address. To me, its more of a societal issue than governmental.

We have state regulations and departments that oversee that and I believe that is best for that body to handle any complaints or issue that arise.

Has Portsmouth changed for the better or worse during the past decade?: I grew up on the Seacoast; Portsmouth since I was a child was and still is the center of it all. I believe it’s only improved over time but becoming more inclusive and diverse in its offerings.

It’s very different realities for people who grew up in very different eras of Portsmouth, and I do not believe in pitting them against one and the other.

Our community has changed for the better in some areas and not great in others.

In economic sense, we’ve seen so much growth and that has surged new locally owned businesses and summoned larger companies to want to move their international headquarters here. We’re becoming a tech and innovation hub, the development at PDA has revitalized what people once feared who be a downfall in the area when the based closed.

The other side of it is, the boom has left some of our long time residents unable to afford their homes due to increasing values, lack of apartments and started homes. We’re seeing a bigger gap in the social economic footprint of our community with more and more people needing so many of the services provided by our non profits and state agencies. But, we’re a community that rallies behind the weakest of us to try and bridge such gaps.

We’ve becoming more diverse and welcoming to people. We’ve also struggled with what that means for “old Portsmouth” and how do we blend the new with the history.

I live by the saying that we can’t plan for the next 100 without studying the past 100.

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