Crystal Paradis-Catanzaro for Somersworth City Council, Ward 4
After serving two years as a City Councilor At-Large, I’m running to rejoin the Somersworth City Council, representing Ward 4, where I live with my wife and three dogs. I’m running because as a taxpayer, I know there is more we can do to provide value to the citizens of Somersworth — and it will take bold vision and a commitment to keep residents informed and inspired.
Thank you, Somersworth Ward 4!
Thank you to the voters of Somersworth Ward 4 for sending me back to City Council! I look forward to representing you and doing good things for our community.
I’m Crystal Paradis-Catanzaro
I’m running for City Council to bring my experience as a community organizer, communications professional and advocate to work for the residents of Somersworth. I’m a taxpayer, homeowner, library card-holder, dog park visitor and someone who cares about my neighbors.
I look forward to bringing fresh ideas and a positive, collaborative approach to Somersworth City Council.
I want Somersworth to be a place where doing business is easy, and City Hall takes a proactive approach to development, working with current and potential businesses and entrepreneurs to help our city thrive. More business means higher property values, lower property tax rates and more families moving here — which continues to increase our school funding.
Let’s work together to bring a new energy into City Hall — and a local government that welcomes engagement and involvement.
I hope to earn your vote on Tuesday, November 7th!
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov 7
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CRYSTAL PARADIS-CATANZARO ON THE ISSUES
Foster’s Daily Democrat Candidate Questionnaire: Somersworth 2023 City Council candidate Crystal Paradis-Catanzaro
Name: Crystal Paradis-Catanzaro
Education: Graduated, Portsmouth Christian (high school); studied English and photography at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson, Tennessee, and at Granite State College in Rochester.
Occupation: Director of strategic communications and community engagement at the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation.
Political or civic experience highlights: Two major community projects I’ve been involved with are TEDxPortsmouth and Little Indonesia. It’s wonderful to hear folks say they never knew the hidden genius or talent of the parents dropping their kids off at school right next to them, until they saw them on the TEDx stage. Volunteering with Indonesian Community Connect to get the word out about the world’s first Little Indonesia was a way to support our Indonesian neighbors who have made our community in the Tri-Cities so much stronger!
What would be your top three priorities if you are elected?: 1: Smart development — we need stronger involvement from our council and city leadership in shaping how we want our community to address the housing crisis and support our small businesses. This must start with more community transparency and involvement to envision together what we want the future of our city to be.
2: Education funding — I’ve been so proud of our School Board this past cycle, working to ensure that our students, teachers and school staff are supported. We all know by now that for too long, there have been competing interests shortchanging our school budgets. A recent council Finance Committee meeting is what sparked me to run — when a councilor made a motion to only give a portion of state education funding to our schools. New Hampshire’s inequitable school funding model puts our schools at a disadvantage already — the least we can do is give our schools what meager adequacy funding the state provides.
3: Accessibility, both physical and digital — that’s roads and sidewalks, and our online communications. Yes, it’s expensive to maintain good infrastructure, but we know that investment now in making our streets and sidewalks accessible will result in a more thriving downtown economy and higher property values. And a website and social media presence that makes it easy for residents to find information, with machine-readable text. Our residents deserve a government that makes it easy to access information and do business.
What is the biggest problem Somersworth is facing and how you would solve it?: The biggest problem Somersworth is facing is poor leadership and a culture of inaction. When new ideas or forward-thinking strategies are raised by our community, too often they are told by current leadership why those things can’t happen, how it was tried before or simply that it would be too much work. There are communities facing the same challenges as Somersworth: housing, homelessness, education funding, public safety, infrastructure — and they are finding creative, innovative solutions. The case studies are out there, and the next generation of municipal leaders are making incredible strides. The number one thing Somersworth can do to address this is by starting now to recruit a new city manager who has a positive, forward-thinking and collaborative approach, as well as familiarity with modern municipal best practices. Let’s get the whole community involved in setting the vision of how we want to approach our next 10, 20 and 50 years as a community. Let’s reinvigorate our city boards and commissions and engage a broader representation of our community in collaborating under a can-do, proactive leadership model. I’m excited to see more women and more young people running for office this year, let’s keep it up!
Should the city work to create below market rate housing, and where is the best site?: The city should absolutely be involved in creating more housing — at market rate, at affordable rates and yes, even below market rate. The most successful housing and development models mix all forms of housing and small businesses together so that people with money to spend have places to spend it, and there are people who can afford to live close enough to work at those places, and everyone has “third places” to go — cafes, bookstores, entertainment, shops.
The sites should be chosen through a community engagement process so that the community has buy-in before the plans are drawn up. Density is important, as aforementioned — and we need to acknowledge that public transportation, walking and biking are just as valid forms of getting around as cars. That means best practices of walkability, public transit, etc., are just as top-of-mind as number of parking spaces when new projects are being developed.
Should the council address the pace and type of development in the city? If yes, how?: Yes! This is one of our biggest responsibilities as city leaders. We should be following our own Master Plan, engaging our residents in charettes and public input sessions, being proactive in working with developers to make sure their proposals will be successful, reflect public desire and not stall or crash and burn in the final stages.
Our neighbors are outpacing us in development, and not having an Exit 10 off the highway means development can skip right over us, from Dover to Rochester. We need to be building stronger partnerships with our sister downtown in Berwick and working harder to protect public transportation infrastructure, so we can be competitive and a desirable place to live and do business.
We also have an opportunity to be more proactive with green energy and sustainability in our municipal buildings and in how we support residents who are making their homes more efficient through solar and other climate-friendly energy solutions. Speaking of which, we’ve had the opportunity to put solar panels on city-owned land like the old landfill/superfund property — we should move to finally make that project a reality.
Does the city need to make changes to its approach to parking as development increases?: Absolutely — current regulations were written long before modern transportation realities. I do think a robust parking structure is in Somersworth’s future, and would love to see it at least partially underground and integrated with small businesses and housing. But downtown I think we need to account for more public transportation, walking and biking infrastructure. The number one thing that most young people and young families look for when relocating is a walkable downtown. And more young families also means more students, which means more school funding and more thriving businesses.
What is the city doing well and where is there room for improvement?: I think our city staff are wonderful — our public works department is very responsive and always on top of calls. Our library is wonderful, and the programming there has really increased since COVID — I look forward to keeping the library expansion project moving. And one of the first impressions most people have is in the city clerk’s office, paying a bill, updating auto registration, registering to vote, etc.—and the people in our clerk’s office and development offices are the most welcoming, positive and inviting of any city hall I’ve ever been in. Our recreation department is also incredible, and I look forward to a rec center in our future. There is room for improvement in our communications and public outreach — how many residents know that they can simply call the public works department if there’s a street sign missing or an issue with dog park fencing? And our city e-newsletter is very informative, but our city website doesn’t have easily findable updates, and the news items get deleted or relocated frequently. Many other cities have more info available (like openings on boards and commissions) on their websites — and going physically to city hall is not realistic for everyone.
I also believe we can do more to connect our first responders to training on mental health and substance use disorders. These resources can often be funded through grants, and I know it’s an area that our police and fire fighters care about. Let’s support them to meet our communities needs.
What is the city’s responsibility to its homeless population, both this winter and long term?: We must take care of our unhoused neighbors, just like we support residents in time of need. The warming center operations have been a challenge, particularly in the last few years, and in large part due to the temporary nature. Agencies who have taken over responsibility to staff the center have struggled to find adequate staff and volunteers — a challenge that would be alleviated if the staff positions were permanent or at least consistently scheduled. This is one way that band-aid solutions end up costing more than a full-time solution. We have worked together with Dover and Rochester on the warming center, and I have watched the plans for a future housing plan on county land — but we still have people with no home facing a fast-approaching winter. I would like to see Tri-City or even full Strafford County public meetings, including members of the unhoused communities and the agencies who serve them, with full participation of city/town leadership, councils and select boards. So far, contentious single votes at one board or another have been the only avenue for concerned citizens to voice their needs. I don’t have the answer — and this is a complex problem that communities across the country are facing. We will need strong cross-community collaboration, diverse funding sources, community engagement, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders and the collective will to address it.
Does the city need to do more to enforce codes regarding apartments in disrepair? If yes, what?: We need a tenants bill of rights — starting with a resource online of all city and state regulations and relevant codes so that renters in Somersworth know their rights and how to advocate for themselves if their landlord refuses to fix issues. Our city should be tenacious with derelict landlords and protection of the safety and wellbeing of our residents. This has been a persistent problem and drawn-out legal battles can’t be the only solution.
Enforcing code “violations” like a resident supporting pollinators through “no mow May” or the recently-reported resident who is supporting her bee neighbors should absolutely not be a priority of the city, especially with the many other properties, city-owned or landlord-abandoned, that need tending to. We should be able to use our judgment and allocate our limited resources where they have a real impact.
What should be done with the former National Guard property?: We absolutely need more housing, and I was disappointed to see the recently proposed apartment project fail — but I believe that better foresight and community engagement earlier in the process would have yielded a different outcome. Whether it’s housing or a community recreation center or businesses, or a mixture — the community should be involved in visioning what they want. If a rec. center doesn’t make sense for financial reasons, let’s play out the scenario and see if residents agree to the tax implications, versus the revenue of housing or business in that spot. This is city-owned property, and residents should have a say, beyond the technicality of being allowed to attend a meeting in a small room in City Hall with 48 hours notice. I’d like to see a well-publicized series of events, with options for online participation and accounting for a variety of work schedules, where residents can provide feedback and ideas before an request for proposals or plan is initiated. We don’t have the opportunity very often to reimagine a key property in the center of our city. Let’s do it right!