The Portsmouth Citizens’ Alliance: Action Items for 2019 / 2020 and Beyond

Control City Spending / Limit Taxes and Fees

  • Make it Portsmouth’s goal that the city budget, property taxes and fees do not increase each year more than the rate of inflation.
  • Freeze immediately overall administrative spending while maintaining support for high quality education and public safety.
  • Enact annual zero-based budgeting: no automatic spending increases except those required by previously negotiated city contracts.

Portsmouth spends far more per resident than almost any town or city in New Hampshire (34% more than Dover, 79% more than Nashua, 85% more than Manchester, 161% more that Exeter, and 297% more than Bedford).

The best way to keep Portsmouth affordable is to limit taxes and fees, which means controlling spending first.

Promote Ethics, Accountability and Fairness

  • Insist on ethical practices, transparency and the consistent application of all regulations throughout city government. Conduct a city governmentwide review process to ensure that these objectives are met.
  • Clarify and simplify the reporting of the city budget so that a typical resident can understand how the city spends public funds and compare year to year.

Portsmouth city government often lacks transparency and city regulations seem to be applied inconsistently. Residents need to know that Portsmouth’s government is working for them.

Create a Vision for Portsmouth Based on the Input of its Residents

  • Maintain Portsmouth’s charm and historic character, the essential qualities of our city on which all of Portsmouth’s success ultimately rests.
  • Develop a vision for the future of Portsmouth through a genuine, fair and rigorous public survey and consultation process.

Too often our city government moves forward with momentous decisions without sufficient vision, long-term financial analysis or input from Portsmouth’s citizens.

How is it that our new and very expensive parking garage is mostly empty? Is high-density housing downtown really a good idea? Is the city experiencing too much growth? How is this growth affecting the cost of living and our quality of life?  Do we want to close off some downtown streets to automobile traffic to make them pedestrian ways?  Do we need more bike lanes and paths, and if so, where? Do we need a residents’ on-street parking program for downtown neighborhoods?

The answers to these questions, and others, are not necessarily easy or obvious. But in each case, rigorous analysis, thorough planning, and public buy-in should be required before moving forward.

The residents of Portsmouth spend too much time fighting their city government, when it is their city government that should be fighting for them.

It’s time for a change.

Join the Alliance, please sign up HERE 

An Alliance of the Left and Right Against the System

Our system of government is dangerously malfunctioning. The nation is producing terrible political leadership. Congress is paralyzed. Political polarization is ripping American society into two warring camps.

These truths are as self-evident as any.

Beginning in 2010, I set out to broker a grand bargain between reform-minded conservative and progressive leaders to fix our political system. It’s a story I tell in my recent book, What Would Madison Do? The Political Journey Progressives and Conservatives Must Make Together.

Sadly, I found that reformers and their organizations were plagued by many of the same maladies the infest our political system itself:  narrow-minded partisanship, group think, and the controlling influence of money. Let’s hope at least some of them can change course.

The good news is that ordinary citizens intuitively know what needs to be done.  It’s a matter being wise enough to put aside partisanship, and of getting us organized.

The initial approach seven years ago was to convince conservative and progressive leaders to agree to a conceptual framework that would include:

  • Congressional Term Limits
  • A Clean Elections System (including addressing Citizens United)
  • An End to Gerrymandering

The power of this combination of reforms is that it includes the favorite reforms of the Right and Left, AND could potentially address the greatest flaws in our political system by undermining its most pernicious incentive structures and corrupt practices.

Teams on the Left and Right would flesh out the specifics. These three solutions would then be packaged together at the heart of a comprehensive anti-corruption amendment to the US Constitution.

Along the way, we imagined that we’d be be free to pursue any number of lesser reforms, from banning campaign contributions from lobbyists and government contractors, to de-privileging the major parties and promoting systems that would give voters more choices.

But the critical first step was then, as it is now.  We must provisionally unite on the Left and Right. Each side must get an equal number of seats at the table. Then we can negotiate the solutions and go forward together via consensus.  It’s the only way we will ever enact the necessary structural changes to our political system. In this hyper-partisan climate, every other approach is a waste of time and money.

I am trying again to develope the Clean Government Alliance for several reasons. First, the political situation is only becoming more dire; we need to unite to fix the system now more than ever. Second, I hope my book will offer some useful perspective. Third, I am grateful to the Independent Voter Network, which has offered me the social media platform that I lacked on the first go-around.

There is way too much of the personal pronoun, “I,” in the preceding paragraph. This is definitely not about me.

We need you. Whoever you are, and wherever you are, you can help. Sign up. Donate.  Still more than that, we need you to lead.

We need Left-Right teams in every city, town and county in the USA.

We need recognized and respected public figures on the Left and Right to join us.

We need major funders, to form a formidable Board of Directors.  The status quo has as much money as Fort Knox. We have the people. We require enough resources to organize them.

What can you do? Who do you know who can help with funding?  With leadership? Who on the other side in your community can you reach out to, and form a local team?

Together we can restore government of, by and for the people. But we must act, together, united, and balanced on the Left and Right, before it’s too late.

Let’s do this.


Stephen Erickson
Founder, The Clean Government Alliance



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