Speech Prep for the 603 Initiative Candidate Night

The following is a speech I prepared for Candidate Night.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to present.  I am a Portsmouth City Councilor, and I must attend a council meeting.  I hope that I can meet you all at some time in the future.  We don’t have to talk politics – business, technology, and entrepreneurship are also great topics!

Dear friends and neighbors, thank you for inviting me to your Candidate Night discussion.

My name is Jack Thorsen and I am the independent New Hampshire State Representative candidate for Portsmouth Wards 1, 2, 4, and 5.  This is a floterial district, so you will have the opportunity to vote for both a representative specific to your ward, and can vote for me as your floterial representative as well.  So, who am I, and why would you vote for me?

First, who I am…

Some of you know me professionally.  I am a technologist and entrepreneur.  I have a Physics undergrad degree and a Law degree.  I worked for large high tech companies, and startups alike.  Currently, I have a two-year-old software development company and spend most of my time coding.

Some of you know me as the first and founding President of Portsmouth Public Media (PPMtv), Portsmouth’s first public access cable television station.  Many of our local artists, film makers, actors, programmers and producers use PPMtv to exercise their craft and showcase their work.  PPMtv was one of my favorite projects to work on, and I am very proud of what it has become.

Some of you know me as one of Portsmouth’s nine city councilors.  I spend most of my time thinking about how to make life in Portsmouth even more awesome than it already is.  That’s my real job there.  My opinion is that you, as a resident, are in charge of the city, and that I, as a City Councilor, work for you and no one else.   My career, and my work with PPMtv, will give you a quick insight to my personality:  I am a maker.  I have fun making things, solving problems, and working with people.  I carry those characteristics into public service.

That’s me in a nutshell.  Here is why I am asking for your vote…

As a city councilor, I learned what Portsmouth needs to thrive.  But, sometimes, city government cannot fix some issues that arise.  Sometimes, the state must get involved, and that is why I decided to run for State Representative.  There are some specific tasks I want to undertake.  I’ll talk about these in a minute.

Life should be fun and full of opportunity.  Our government should protect our right to pursue our dreams and not get in the way.  Whether you are looking for a great job, or you are a person that wants to start his or her own company, government should make that path as easy and unencumbered as possible.  Our government should also make sure that the environment in which you live and work is safe, and that no harm happens because of the actions or neglect of others.

Jobs and economic activity are some of the important big picture items on the state level, and I’ll put a lot of effort into these.  But, I want to focus on some smaller specific issues that directly affect Portsmouth, and that could be easily ignored if someone doesn’t take the responsibility to run with those issues and get them done.

Here are the three tasks that I have set myself to do:

First, our rail system needs attention.  There is a real safety issue with the increased transport of propane right through the middle of the city.  The rails are in need of upgrade and repair.  You may have heard that a rail car recently de-railed in the city.  Fortunately, the car only had lumber on it.  Several of our neighborhoods run along the rails.  Those residents are very concerned about their safety.

In addition, the state, through the state-run Pease Development Authority, should finish the rail shunt through Pease so that rail transport can bypass our downtown altogether.  My plan is to work closely with our State Senator, Martha Fuller Clark, if re-elected, to push for the rail extension, an idea she also supports.

Second, we have seen an increase in the number of helicopters buzzing our city, and that is adversely affecting many residents’ quality of life.  One resident clocked more than a dozen flights in a day, right over his house.  The helicopters fly low and are very noisy.  While I believe that the helicopter company has every right to its business, I also believe that there are ways to regulate the times, manner, and routes of the flights to minimize the nuisance factor.  My plan is to work with the regulating authorities of the state, and our Federal Delegation, in accordance with FAA rules, to give communities more ability to specify how and how not to conduct touring flights over populated areas.  Having this ability will become even more important if additional touring flight companies decide to make Portsmouth their home.

Third, we have seen a lot of Department of Transportation work in Portsmouth lately.  The Islington and the Maplewood bridges are currently undergoing repair.  The problem is that the time frame is way too long.  The bridges will take more than a year to complete!  Apparently, the schedule is set to accommodate the DOT’s schedule without regard to how the delays cause a nuisance to the city.   Look how long it took to do a simple interchange at Lafayette Rd and the Rt. 1 bypass.  There is also the matter of the DOT not installing proper sound barriers along I-95.  The bottom line is that the DOT needs to become more cognizant of the needs of the local communities in which they operate.

These three tasks will take the cooperation of Democrats and Republicans alike to fix.  My position on the City Council, where I work with all sides on every issue, and the fact that I am running as an independent candidate, puts me in the unique position to be able to build consensus without partisan politics, and from a position of authority as a city councilor.  We can win on these issues if we work together.

In summary, whether I am addressing the big picture issues like jobs and economic growth, or the smaller, but not less important issues that directly affect our city, my position on the City Council, my political independence, my ability to develop consensus, and my background in business, technology, the arts, and community service, will be very valuable as I serve in Concord on your behalf.

If you like what you hear, then please vote for me on Tuesday, November 4th.  I work for your benefit, and always will.

Jack Thorsen is currently a technology business owner, a Portsmouth City Councilor and a Candidate for New Hampshire State Representative.

CPI Up, but not Income – Residents Hard Pressed to Accept Tax Increases

Ran across this interesting chart which can be found at www.payscale.com.  This pay rate chart shows that since 2008 people’s pay took a hit and has not recovered past 2008 levels since!

Over this same period of time, the city budget increased almost 15% (less if certain contingency funds are not considered*).

The city cites the regional November-November Boston-Brockton-Nashua Consumer Price Index (CPI), which came in at around 2.9% this year to justify an increase in the city budget for FY13.

Let’s summarize:  Personal income for wage earners is flat compared to 2008.  CPI is up, meaning that people can afford to purchase less of what they need.  On top of that, the city increased spending by almost 15% (comparing FY13 budget to FY08 budget, not to actual*), making it even harder for wage earners to make ends meet.

Maybe the CPI is the wrong standard of measure?

The situation is worse for those on fixed incomes, who are seeing not only increasing costs of living and increasing taxes, but decreasing incomes of late.  They are the most vulnerable.

Annual Trends in Compensation for National (US)

National (US)
Boston Metro Area
Get a Free Salary Report
Compensation Data Provided by PayScale, Inc.
(*note:  It is not always “apples to apples” to compare budgets of different years because the conditions change – contingency funds for contractual obligations, for example, distort the comparison.  The city returned over $2 million of budgeted collective bargaining funds to its fund balance in FY09 through FY11.  Taking this out of the comparison results in an increase of two to three percent less.  It is even harder to compare a current budget to a prior year’s actual expenditures, which can be found in the annual financial returns.  Readers who want more detailed explanation are encouraged to participate in the public budget review process over the next couple of months.)

A Friend on the City Council

Does Portsmouth listen to you?  It will when I am on the City Council!  Your concerns, your questions, your suggestions – I have an open ear.

Is anyone looking after your back pocket?  I will!  I am a fiscal conservative who knows that organizations need to be given good guidelines for taxing and spending so that you get the best services, without taking more from you than is absolutely necessary.  Let’s keep property taxes low (which helps renters, too!).  This means all departments must look again at how budgets can be squeezed.

Are your children getting the best education possible?  It may be time to look at how we run our schools, and what it takes to increase the level of educational excellence.  I support WAVE (We All Value Education) and the work that Scott McKee and John Shea are doing to raise awareness, and I approve more choices in education – choices that parents need to give their children the best educational opportunity.

You are my friend and neighbor and I am running for City Council so that you have a voice.